On a normal Friday, 800,000 federal workers would be getting paid, but there is nothing normal about the partial government shutdown and the very real hardships so many families are facing because of it.
TSA officers, IRS workers, Coast Guard personnel, Border Patrol agents, park rangers, FDA inspectors and so many more federal employees don't know when their next paycheck is coming.
They're scared, and we are scared for them.
Katie Granados is a federal worker and mother of one who is now working without pay. Her partner is also a federal worker working without pay. "If they don't pay us by the first my mortgage is going to be late," Granados told Motherly Friday morning, noting that she's also concerned about affording food for her 8-month-old, who recently stopped breastfeeding.
Because Granados and her partner still have to report to work every day, they can't get part-time jobs to fill the gap.
No matter what your political stripes, most of us can agree that this shutdown is hurting American families. If you're watching the news and wishing you could do something to help, know that you can.
Here are five easy ways we can help families impacted by the government shutdown:
1. Donate to local food banks
Food banks across the country are bracing for a double whammy of need. First, there are the federal workers who have not been paid, some of whom are already turning to food banks. But if the shutdown continues much longer there is another group who will be needing food banks desperately: Families who usually rely on WIC and SNAP.
According to CNN, 38.6 million Americans depend on SNAP (aka food stamps), and WIC (the program that provides pregnant women, new mothers and young children in low-income households with nutritious food) helps about 7 million Americans. If the shutdown continues, funding will be threatened, and so will food security for these families. Donations to food banks (especially things like diapers, formula and cold hard cash) are needed as these community organizations brace for a tidal wave of need.
It seems unfair that a person could be working 40 hours a week at their job and still have to rely on a food bank, but that is the situation for some of the 420,000 federal employees working without pay right now.
2. Donate to emergency funds
The Coast Guard Mutual Assistance fund, which provides emergency relief to Coast Guard members, is sorely in need of donations right now so that it can pass donations onto active-duty personnel who are without pay. Unoffical GoFundMe campaigns are also popping up across the country as parents like Julie Burr, a contracted worker and single mother whose children lost their dad to heart attack this past summer, are without paychecks in a country where four in five workers can't afford to miss one.
3. Tip generously
It's important for those who can to tip service industry workers generously right now, for two reasons. The first: Your Uber driver or server could have already worked a full day at their (now unpaid) government job, or they could be picking up these shifts because they're locked out of their federal office.
The second reason why tipping is so important right now is because the shutdown is impacting the larger economy negatively, so Uber drivers and wait staff who aren't moonlighting federal employees but do rely on tips for a living are seeing shrinking gratuities and opportunities. The ripple effect of the shutdown is so huge.
4. Be kind and empathetic
"If someone can help in any way, even by just being there to listen, that can help," says Granados, who is doing what she can to help other moms who aren't being paid by offering to share her cloth diaper stash with peers who can no longer afford to buy disposable diapers.
According to Granados, any bit of kindness fellow Americans can offer families like hers will be appreciated.
5. Contact your lawmakers
Email, call, DM and write your reps and let them know that you want them to work to get federal workers paid ASAP. Check out callmycongress.com to look up contact info.
Bottom line: American families are suffering and it is unfair.
Granados and her husband have to move every few years because of their careers with the government, and each time they move having good credit is really important. They need it to get a home and set up utilities, and Granados worries that if the shutdown continues, the good credit she and her partner have worked so hard to build will be in jeopardy.
"It's incredibly stressful, not knowing how long it will be until I get paid again. I'm already calling family and I talked to my dad this morning and I told him, 'if this goes on too long I'm going to have to come stay with you guys,' or I am going to have to ask my family for money so that I can feed my baby," she tells Motherly.
Hard working parents should not have to feel this stress. They need to get paid.