Prolonged shutdown impacts student

Layoffs, furloughs and unease impacts senior Isabelle Martinez home life


The recent government shutdown have affected our community by leading to unemployement.

Marisa Salazar, Feature Editor

Airport security was sparse, food inspection was dwindling, the FBI was at a standstill and national parks were closed. This would usually be a cause for concern, however these closures became commonplace during the 34 days in which the government went through an indefinite shutdown that resulted in 800,000 federal workers missing their paychecks.

The government shutdown had a direct effect on senior Isabel Martinez and her family. Martinez’s mother was left without work due to the IRS offices being temporarily closed but expected to resume normal operations as soon as possible.

“Many people don’t really understand until I tell them it’s affecting me and my family,” Martinez said. “My mother hasn’t gotten her first paycheck and she’s about to miss the next one. I don’t know what’s in store for us.”

Martinez’s mother declined to be interviewed for job security purposes, however Isabel shared what her mother did to get money while the government was closed. This included taking up a temporary job through Postmates, an online food delivery service where drivers can pick up and deliver meals at their choosing.

“My mom wasn’t working for a while,” Martinez said. “She filed for unemployment, but then she got a job at Postmates. She didn’t want to go to a regular 9-to-5 job because it was temporary and she didn’t know when the government was going to open again.”

Martinez expressed mixed reactions to finding out that her mother would be taking a job with Postmates, especially since she was aware that her mother has solely worked for the federal government for 34 years, and that tenure may now be in jeopardy.

“At first, I found it kind of funny,” Martinez said. “I made light of it, but really I think it’s insane that my mom had to get another job. Her boss called her a few days ago and asked her to start working without pay, so she’s been working again from home for the IRS.”

Like some other federal workers, Martinez’s mother was called to work without compensation while the shutdown was still in effect. Prior to recent events, Martinez was aware that this was a possibility as she recalled a previous shutdown that occurred back in 2013.

“I knew the government could be shut down because it has in the past,” Martinez said.  “I remember when I was in middle school and we were having a fundraiser, but I couldn’t get my mom to pay because the government was shut down.”

They don’t know how much our lives are being affected. They don’t understand on a personal level…

— Isabel Martinez

Martinez explained that it can be hard for people to understand how the shutdown hurt her family becuase of the complexity of the issue. While information was available through many news outlets, she believes most people didn’t understand becuase they weren’t directly affected.

“I think they are aware but to a limit, like a lot of people [at Bowie] too,” Martinez said. “They don’t know how much of our lives are being affected. They don’t understand on a personal level, they understand from a logical level, but they don’t know how it’s affecting various families.”

Government teacher James Ellerbrock became  concerned about the government shutdown after viewing the impacts on unemployed workers and their families when he watched a story on a local news channel.  He asked his students to bring donations of non-perishable foods, since some government employees had to rely on food pantries for help.

“I’m asking students to bring some food, because I saw on television last week that more people are coming into food banks because they’re not getting paid,” Ellerbrock said. “I’m asking my students to be generous and help some of these people.”

Bowie donations went to the Abiding Love Lutheran Church, where food pantry coordinator and former Bowie math teacher Diane McGowan has been a volunteer since the program began back in 2005.

“It started 14 years ago,” McGowan said. “I was Christian Service Director at that time, so I was the one who started it along with volunteers from my church. We provide food service and a few other services.”

McGowan expressed her gratitude for the donations from Bowie students. She added that the best donations are ones that are healthy, since the church food pantry is part of the Central Texas Food Bank Healthy Initiative Project.

“We got so much peanut butter from Bowie in December, I think it was like 300 or 400 jars,” McGowan said. “The boys brought it over one week day before school was out, it was great because that is something they all want and take, but we try to provide the most healthy foods that we can.”

According to McGowan, the food pantry saw growth in attendance from this time last year. This mirrors the increase in demand for food pantry assistance from unemployed government workers who had trouble affording food during the shutdown.

“November and December numbers were about the same as last year, but our numbers in January were increased,” McGowan said. “The average number of families that come to the food bank last year was 65 a week and this year it was 73 a week.”

Martinez and her family were able to manage when the government closed on December 22, however she expressed her sympathy for the federal employees who live paycheck to paycheck and had to seek outside assistance to make ends meet.

“I’m blessed that I’m in my state where my mom has savings money, but reading the stories and seeing them on the news, seeing that people can’t afford to get food, I can’t imagine being where they are,” Martinez said.

United States history teacher Kaylin Brett shared her view on the government shutdown. She explained her disagreement with how the shutdowns negatively impact uninvolved workers when there is a disagreement between political parties, which has recently become more frequent.

“Unfortunately, I feel like the government shutdown is becoming more and more common, but was really crazy of how long it lasted,” Brett said. “It’s kind of frustrating that the parties can’t come to compromises, like they can’t even reach an agreement for the sake of the people who can’t work.”

While it is uncertain if the government will close back down only weeks after reopening on January 29, Brett hoped that the widespread effects of the recent long running shutdown will encourage people to visit the polls to potentially prevent something like this happening in the future.

“A silver lining would be that it is going to cause people to become more active and involved in politics,” Brett said. “I would like to think that most of our politicians are trying to do what’s best for the country and what’s best for Americans, weather that’s building the wall or taking that money and using it for other resources.”