In what has become the longest federal government shutdown in history, impacting 800,000 people who have gone without pay for almost a month - so far - the Mid-Hudson Children Museum is opening its doors again for another Pizza and Play Night this Thursday, January 24, 2019 from 5 to 7:30 pm. Pizza has been donated by Chef Joel Trocino of Amici’s Restaurant, and this time there will also be chowder from River Station Restaurant, both eateries from Poughkeepsie.
Financial and Mental Health Options Presented
For this third event, Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum is coordinating with TEG Federal Credit Union and Mental Health America to provide information on community resources and services available to furloughed workers who are impacted by the partial shutdown of the federal government.
"When we first conceived the idea of hosting our Pizza and Play nights for furloughed workers, we wanted to provide an evening of normalcy for those federal employees impacted by the partial government shutdown,” said Lara Litchfield-Kimber, Executive Director of MHCM.
“It is inconceivable that the shutdown is still dragging on, but as it does, these evenings seem to be taking on the additional importance of allowing people to come together, talk, laugh and check-in on each other. As staff and board of MHCM, we’ve participated in the the conversations and we’ve done a lot of listening. We’ve heard of missed car loan payments and uncertainty about how grocery bills will be paid if the shutdown continues. While not expressly stated in many cases, we know the uncertainty around the shutdown is creating a lot of stress in the lives of individuals and families, so we reached out to engage community partners who can offer additional support.”
Who Isn’t Getting Paid In This Area?
Taking a micro-look at this area by looking at who attended the past two events at Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum, people not getting paid who attended the first event, and some the second event, include workers at the FDR estate in Hyde Park and other national park properties in the area, the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (in Albany), a family of a federal officer, and others. About 30 impacted people brought their families, or came solo.
Lots of Americans Live Paycheck to Paycheck
In an NPR interview this week, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz (who studies wage stagnation and income inequality) said that 40% of Americans have less than $400 saved. Many federal workers, like a lot of workers in the private and entrepreneurial sectors, live paycheck to paycheck. According to this NPR story, Amy Fellows, a correctional officer with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, lives paycheck to paycheck. She was able to pay her rent and utilities for the first month of being furloughed, but doesn’t have anything for this month. And that’s just one story. Here are other stories of workers whose spouses were able to work additional hours at private-sector jobs, and who are thinking of leaving their federal jobs for new jobs.
Types of Federal Jobs Impacted
Included in departments not being paid are TSA workers (according to this CNN article), who continue to be required to show up at airports to check for airline security. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration stopped conducting food safety inspections, and then resumed recently. The U.S. Coast Guard is another surprising department not to get paid. The military fell under a different budget, within the Defense Department which was funded in September. But the U.S. Coast Guard’s budget, according to this article, falls under Homeland Security, and they were the first members of the armed forces not to get paid during a partial government shutdown.
Federal Workers Legally Bound to Continue Working
While half of the federal workers are “furloughed” (granted a leave of absence) according to this article at The Atlantic, those who have jobs that ensure the safety of the country still must show up, thanks to the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. The act was created to prevent federal workers from striking if they wanted better pay or benefits during pay negotiations. The act covers agencies like the Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Transportation Security Agents (TSA) and Border Patrol Agents.
Says Eric Young, president of the union that represents the approximately 30,000 employees of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, this forced labor is “involuntary servitude.” If federal workers strike, they could risk losing pensions they have worked for years to build. Trump has warned that the shutdown could last for months or years as far as he’s concerned.
Federal Unions Filing Lawsuits Against Trump Administration
Unions representing federal workers have filed lawsuits against the Trump administration, saying: “The government is in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, a 1938 law that mandates a minimum wage and overtime pay both to public- and private-sector workers,” according to the article in The Atlantic. Those unions include The American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union.
What’s Next and Where To Get Help
Created for people who need help but don’t know where to go or how to ask for it, there is the Dutchess County Helpline. If you are worried, or can’t buy groceries, or just don’t know where to turn, you could call the Dutchess County Help Line and talk to someone about anything, plus get resources. They can point you in the right direction based on what you need.
CALL or TEXT: (845) 485-9700
TOLL-FREE: (877) 485-9700
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If you are a federal worker with a story you want to share about how the partial shutdown is impacting you, you can do so by emailing email@example.com. If you wish to remain anonymous, you can.
If you work for or run a business that is doing something special to help federal workers who are not getting paid, you can let us know about it by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.