Mich. Congressional leaders in Detroit listen to shutdown stories: "This is a crisis"
Federal employees woke up Friday without a money in the bank due to what will likely become the longest government shutdown in U.S. history and some of Michigan’s congressional delegation listened to the shutdown stories Friday afternoon in Detroit.
Democratic Representatives Andy Levin, Debbie Dingle and Elissa Slotkin listened to federal workers who said they do not know how much longer they can last without a paycheck.
Democratic Representatives Dan Kildee of Flint and Rashida Tlaib of Detroit were scheduled to attend the roundtable discussion, but were unable to attend due to travel delays. Republican Representative Fred Upton was invited, but was unable to attend.
“This is serious. People are going to lose their homes, their cars. People aren’t going to be taking the medicine they need. This is a crisis,” Rep. Levin of Bloomfield Township said. “We need to; it’s just not an option to keep the government shut down. It’s no way to run a country.”
Transportation Security Administration worker Wanavia Wilson sat at the roundtable and said she has been working without pay and usually lives paycheck to paycheck. Wilson said she took her family to a food bank to an attempt to make her money last longer for other bills that have not stopped coming, just because her paycheck has.
“I’ve had fellow workers tell me they can’t afford to come to work,” she said. “The morale is extremely low. It’s the lowest it’s ever been.”
She said just this week four coworkers quit because they needed to make money; she said three more quit last week.
“One [coworker] told me he doesn’t know how much longer he can afford to even work here,” Wilson added. “We are just trying to hold out until the shutdown is over.”
Fellow TSA worker Jennifer Dziendziel said her husband also works for the agency and neither are getting paid.
“We’re okay for now but next week, I don’t know what we are going to do,” Dziendziel said.
Transportation for her son to get to school, medical bills and other expenses all weigh on her mind as the shutdown continues.
“I have prescriptions that I don’t know how I’m going to pay for,” she added.
Tim Mach with the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists said his employees work at airports across Michigan inspecting planes and ensuring safety for flights. He is deemed an essential employees, so he’s been working despite the shutdown.
“We don’t want anyone’s family member getting on a plane that’s not safe. We don’t want them flying into an airport that’s not safe,” he said.
Right now, he said only about 80 percent of his staff are working – without pay no less – to get the job done.
“We want to make sure that all the equipment, all the instrument landing systems, all the navigation, all the radar [equipment] are working to their best of their ability and we cannot do that without all of our support staff available, without our logistics available, our engineering support’s not available,” he explained. “Missing those layers of important people make it harder to do our job.”
Mach said the job is getting done, for now. But the current situation cannot last forever.
“The longer the shutdown goes the more chance for something to happen that we don’t want to happen,” he said. “It’s important to us to get our co-workers back on the job.”
Those impacts are in his professional life. Personally, he woke up Friday without a deposit in his account from his employer – like thousands other federal workers across the country.
“Not having a check is stressful on me, it’s stressful on the wife. I’ve got kids in college and tuition is due this week,” Mach explained. “I’ll probably be able to whether the storm for a check or two, but then it’s okay like, do I hold the garage sale like they said I should? There’s bills every week. You gotta get them paid.”
Federal student loans are also impacted by the historic shutdown.
Angel Colemean, an Internal Revenue Service employee said she has federal loans, like many other federal employees. Coleman said she usually utilizes the autopay option to make payments on her loan. During the shutdown, she wanted to turn them off due to not getting paid.
“I went to the website and I couldn’t even access it to turn off my autopay because the website is down because of the shutdown,” Coleman said.
Representative Slotkin said she and other members of Congress are working on sending a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the entire Education Department to try and find a solution.
Regardless of politics, each federal employee said Friday they just want the shutdown to end.
“We just want to get back to work. “We should be able to get paid,” Dziendziel said.