Families deal with effects of government shutdown


Sabrina Bohn

Although the government is open temporarily for three weeks of negotiations over the budget, the shutdown was the longest in history, lasting 35 days. Many families with members who work for the government were affected by the two paychecks that were not paid during that time. “My mom is really good at managing money. She managed to make it work so we can buy groceries to eat dinner. Stuff that we don’t need, we just haven’t really been getting,” junior Lauren Ottensmeyer said. “The shutdown just made everything stressful, but we got through it slowly.”

After the longest government shutdown in United States history, government workers are still adjusting from the two paychecks that they missed during the 35-day period.

“Initially, we just figured the shutdown would be over in a short time. It was okay, and it was easier to go into work at the beginning,” Andy Ottensmeyer, father of juniors Lauren and Joel Ottensmeyer, said. “The longer it lasted, it just became more and more frustrating. It was a distraction from the job we were supposed to be doing.”

With their father working as an air traffic controller, the Ottensmeyer family had to sacrifice certain things and lean on their savings in order to get through the shutdown.

“We had to tell [our landlord] that we can’t pay it this month. We’ve been eating dinner at home a lot, and we don’t really go out. We’re just trying to save money,” Lauren said. “It’s affecting a lot families, and it’s not a good position for parents with four kids. We didn’t pay for my lacrosse clinics this month, and we stopped going to the gym because we can’t pay our monthly fee this month.”

The family’s frustration increased as the shutdown continued, but Andy stayed committed to doing his job.

“What motivated me was a couple things. One is that, as an air traffic controller, the planes are still flying, and you still have a duty to go in and do your job for the sake of keeping people safe. You have a commitment to the flying public to continue to do your job,” Andy said. “Plus you have a commitment to your coworkers who themselves are coming in and also working.”

She doesn’t just do it for the money, but money is important in trying to make ends meet.”

— junior Navy Williams-Harkins

Working at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, junior Navy Williams-Harkins aunt, Stacy Williams, was not immediately affected by the shutdown due to the department’s budget being two years ahead. However, if the shutdown continues, her job will be affected, forcing her to lean on her second job.

“She has to take care of everyone else in her house, so she has to keep going,” Navy said. “She has to figure something out because that’s her only option. The government really needs to go ahead and fix this.” 

With another family member in the Air Force affected by the shutdown, Navy and Stacy feel frustrated that the shutdown could impact her family in this way.

“It’s irritating because she loves her job, but it’s still like, ‘I have to make a living out of this. I have a family, and I have kids to take care of,’” Navy said. “She doesn’t just do it for the money, but money is important in trying to make ends meet.”

While Stacy believes that shutdowns are beneficial in some circumstances, she does not feel that this one is worthwhile. 

“The shutdown can be used as an effective bargaining unit in certain circumstances,” Stacy said. “But in this instance, it’s a clear abuse of power. The president does not have the United States citizens interests at heart.”

However, Andy does not view the shutdown as a partisan issue; instead, he blames both sides.

“I don’t view this as a President Trump issue. I think his message about securing our border is something that nobody has wanted to deal with before. The politicians have not wanted to deal with that for 30 years, so there had to come a point where somebody was going to have to deal with it, and he chose to be the person to do that,” Andy said. “I don’t blame President Trump, and I don’t even blame the current Democrats; I blame all of the politicians for the last 30 years for not dealing with the issue.”