Sydney Smythe watches the news intently while studying anatomy. She gets up, fills a pot with water, throws the noodles in and sits back down. She continues to watch and starts to write down numbers. A quick calculation would determine her fate for the next two weeks.
“Down almost $800,” she tells her mom.
“It’s so sad that it has come to this,” her mom says.
“This month is going to be a struggle to pay for school bills.”
It’s the ninth day of the shutdown and times are tough. Things aren’t getting easier. Many people, including students, have been affected by the government shutdown that was brought down by Congress on Oct. 1, 2013.
Sydney Smythe is a 20-year-old student at Anne Arundel Community College. She also has been an employee of a government agency since her senior year of high school.
“This job has truly been a blessing to me,” Smythe says.
Smythe is already figuring out how she is going to pull this off. She paces back and forth, puts her hands over her eyes and starts to divide the money into stashes. One stash will go toward bills, another will cover groceries and the last one she will save. Smythe disappears with the stashed savings, only to return moments later with a pile of envelopes. Smythe grasps onto the pile and throws them onto the floor.
“Yep, those are all bills I am behind on.”
Smythe needs to work in order for her school bills to be paid. Since the government shutdown, her paychecks were decreased by triple the amount and held in government possession for two weeks. Smythe, who has been independent her entire life, also takes care of her three siblings. This has affected them as well.
“Usually, I purchase my siblings’ necessities. The last three weeks have been extremely trialing,” Smythe says.
8-year-old Jake Smythe has also seen what the shutdown has done to his sister, and he isn’t happy about it.
“My sister does everything to make sure we have the best lives, it makes me sad,” Smythe says.
Smythe and her mom start dinner with looks of disbelief and disappointment. The two try to make the best out of the situation they have been faced with, talking about other topics besides the furlough. There’s no way to ignore the low morale that fills the household. And there is no way to understand the feeling of uncertainty until you are looking at it dead in the eyes.
“Well there is plenty of time for a miracle tomorrow,” Smythe says.
“Yeah, I’ll be praying for tomorrow,“ her mom agreed.
* * *
The government shutdown has affected many people nationwide in numerous industries. One group of people that has taken the biggest hit throughout the government shutdown are student employees. An estimated 8,000 student workers were put out of a career for two weeks while the shutdown was occurring.
“Of those 8,000 student workers, about 40 percent of them are financially independent like me,” Smythe says.
According to Smythe, numerous people knew that the continuing resolution was going to expire and a government shutdown would be on the horizon. In March 2013, government employees were facing the same shutdown but at the time, an agreement was made.
“The other problem I have is not knowing your fate until midnight,” Smythe says.
Government employees didn’t find out if they would be attending work until the very last minute. Not only is this an inconvenience, but it has left a feeling of extreme reluctance.
“No one should have to go through this, no one,” Smythe says.
A Supportive Husband Finds A Way
A man sits at an empty table at McDonald’s, eating a chicken classic sandwich. It’s 3:30 p.m. and school was let out an hour ago. A cane is leaning against the left side of the seat and a white bag with blue stripes on the other side. He took another bite from his sandwich.
“My diet, as well as my wife’s, is not so good right now. You eat what you can afford like cereal in the morning, a sandwich and things I shouldn’t eat like chips for lunch and a bowl of soup at night.”
Meet Jeff Wilson: Husband, high school assistant teacher and currently the breadwinner of his family. He’s one of the many who have been affected by the government shutdown. It’s the fourteenth day of the shutdown and already people are trying to figure out how to pay their bills, including Wilson.
“She keeps calling me the breadwinner now and it’s, uh, how do put this? I guess the best way to look at it is that you’re the backup quarterback behind the star. You never expected to get off the bench and then all of a sudden you’re in there and you think, ‘Oh my God, how do I do this?’” Wilson chuckles.
Wilson only gets paid around $1340 a month after taxes. He gives $650 to his wife for bills and the rest goes to his own bills and groceries.
“Our family income has gone down 75 percent. I have generally paid half of my monthly income towards bills and currently paying all of it,” Wilson says with a grimace.
Both Wilson and his wife were born with cerebral palsy, which is a number of brain disorders that affects body movement, posture and muscle coordination. But that doesn’t stop him or her from working and going through the struggles that the shutdown brought like everyone else.
“Unfortunately, just like everyone else who’s not rich, we live pay check by pay check. I wish both sides would work something out soon. It’s their job as Congress to fix this in the next 72 hours,” Wilson says.
Wilson checks his Facebook almost every day. He sighs when he sees another update from one of his friends complaining about the shutdown and losing their minds in how they’re going to pay for all their bills.
“My wife and I have the same friends and the things that I read on Facebook, I know that no one is happy because they can’t go to work,” Wilson grunts out, “And that’s not good for people psychologically. I think that once you’re an adult and you get a job, that job becomes a big part of your self-esteem. Even if it’s not your fault, you can’t go where you want to.”
Wilson finishes eating his sandwich before getting up and throwing away his trash. He grabs his cane and swings his bag over his shoulder. He braces himself before heading out to go back home and comfort his loved ones who are silently grieving about the shutdown.
* * *
The government shutdown finally came to its end on Oct. 16. President Obama signed the bill that was approved by both chambers of Congress averting a default that the country would have to go through if Congress waited a day longer.
“If Congress didn’t sign something by the 17th of this month, we would have gone into default and that would be a major catastrophe that this country has never seen,” Wilson says.
Even though the shutdown has come to an end, workers are still trying to get back on their feet. Companies are still facing some inconveniences that may lead them to a downfall within their business.
According to Reuters, “companies and financial institutions have warned of project delays, employee furloughs and other consequences of a prolonged impasse.”
A Halted Craft Brewer
It’s a gloomy Saturday afternoon and the rain is passing. The smell of beer moves through the air of 1700 Union Ave. A soft blanket of fog visits the area as a large crowd of people huddle outside of Union Craft Brewery, each sipping on their glass cups filled with varieties of beer.
Employee Eric Stevens enters into the brewery, as little water droplets cling to his red t-shirt. He grabs a large, round silver keg and places it behind the bar. Edging over the counter while staring at the smiling customer he asks, “What would you like today?”
“I’ll have a Duckpin Pale Ale,” replies the woman with short hair and bright red lipstick.
Stevens, 28, has been working at the brewery for a year and he never thought he would see the day of the government shutting down.
“I love being able to come up with new ideas and flavors of beers to get out to the public,” says Stevens as he pulls down the lever and pours a glass of Balt Altbier.
“This shutdown is really halting that part of the business for us.”
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau is responsible for the consent of all new recipes and new labels for beer. Craft Brewers rely on the government to ensure that the packaging, labeling and naming is a proper representation of the beer inside. If the bureau doesn’t agree, the beer can’t move from state to state.
“People don’t realize that this shutdown is not just affecting government workers, but craft brewers like us also,” stressed Stevens as he walks outside to service the customers. “We are losing money too because we can’t sell the new seasonal flavors of beers to our customers.”
The wind whistles and fog fills the sky, but this doesn’t halt the coming of beer lovers into the brewery. Looking around the room, Stevens sees all of the happy faces in deep conversations with their groups.
“I enjoy the process of taking orders from the customers,” an excited Stevens says.
“Pouring their beer choice and watching them take that first sip is rewarding.”
Stevens stated that the bureau was taking a lengthy time in approving applications before the shutdown and now that it has stopped, the process is going to take even longer.
“Throughout this shutdown we will remain positive and continue to market the beers that we have as of now,” Stevens says with optimism.
“I just hope this shutdown doesn’t last too long because we don’t want our customers to get bored. They need something new.”