The government shutdown that is approaching its second week has furloughed over 800,000 federal employees. Of those employees 163,000 are Latino. Our good friends over at News Taco took to the street to get some feedback from Latino/a employees from different governmental agencies on the shutdown.
The consensus is get us back to work this shutdown is ‘senseless’ and bad for the country.
Employee #1- Ramon – National Park Service (NPS)
Ramon is an upper middle management career employee with the National Park Service on the East Coast. According to Ramon, his unit has been preparing for the Shutdown for a longtime. Leading up to the Shutdown, he was able to save three paychecks worth of money – that is, a month and half of pay and is making necessary purchases on a credit card that had no balance at the start of the shutdown. He is hoping he won’t have touch his savings.
The situation for Ramon and his coworkers became much more stressful when they realized the won’t be receiving paychecks. For those considered non-essential and are required to work, Ramon says that it hit harder for them because they still have work related expenses such gas for the commute and food for meals.
“This shutdown is senseless and bad for the country. If we get back pay, taxpayers could be very upset. People already have a bad image of Federal Employees. This will further hurt their image of us,” adds Ramon. He continues. “these are not high paying jobs. We love our jobs and we love our country.”
During the Sequester NPS employees were making do with what little funding was available. “Being called nonessential hurts. It hurt giving furlough notices to my employees. That they would be considered nonessential hurt,” he laments.
As for the Shutdown and it’s impact on taxpayers especially those that utilize National Parks, Ramon starts to recite a list of functions that have ceased. The Park were he is assigned to has a neighboring community that is over 50% Latino and also has a significant African American population. Many from the community legal fish in the park. This is not recreational fishing but rather what NPS terms as “sustenance fishing.” Also, without NPS Interruptive Rangers, school groups and daily visitors are shut out. Campers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts cannot use the Nation Parks that their taxes pay for.
A major concern of his is that without NPS employees on the job there will and increase in wildlife poaching. Without NPS employees at work, protected wildlife is at risk to those that do no respect wildlife and conservation efforts.
“I wish Speaker Boehner would bring a clean Concurrent Resolution to the floor of the House of Representatives the record. This not about one side winning or losing. Under the Shutdown, the whole country is losing. Americans are not getting what they pay for,” concludes Ramon.
Employee #2 – Fernando – United States Forest Service
Another Federal employee greatly affected by the shutdown is Fernando. Fernando AND his wife Carmela both work for the United States Forest Service (FS) on the West Coast. They have two small children both under that age of five.
According to Fernando, during the Shutdown he and all FS employees cannot look for other work without ethics approval. Of course, the ethics office and the personnel that normally would consider the request are furloughed as well.
At the forest he works at only essential personnel are on duty – Law Enforcement, Line Officers and others deemed so. They are reporting for duty without pay until the Shutdown is resolved.
Taxpayers are affected though. FS public lots are closed, permit offices while not entirely closed are staffed with skeleton crews and recreational areas are shut down. While it still is Fire Season, the risk for forest fires is not as high as it was mid summer. Forest fires can be dealt with crews they have.
When asked about the direct impact of the Shutdown on his family, Fernando stated that he and his wife dipped into their savings and took care of priorities. “We will be okay. The irony of all this is that the reason I took a job with the Forest Service is because the Federal Government never shuts down,” he states.