Partial government shutdown financially affects Bellevue

LeAnne Bugay, Editor-in-Chief

On Dec. 22, 2018 the US government enacted a partial shutdown due to Congress and President Donald Trump’s disagreement on the federal budget for the 2019 fiscal year. The budget included Trump’s proposed $5.7 billion southern border wall, which was the primary expense that divided Democrats and Republicans. The partial shutdown is on its 36th day, and became the longest in US history on its 22nd day on Jan. 12.

The shutdown affected nine federal agencies: Homeland Security, Agriculture, Interior, State, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Commerce, Transportation, and Treasury. Several sub-agencies have closed as well.

Across the nation, over 800,000 federal employees are either working with no current pay or are on furlough. Nebraska employs about 9,800 federal workers, of which about 2,600 are affected by the shutdown, according to Governing magazine.

Even though Nebraska’s number of federal workers receiving no pay seems rather small when looking at the scope of the whole nation, communities like Bellevue are still feeling some financial effects.

Bellevue West special education teacher Andrew Crawford and his wife Rebecca are are one of those families. Rebecca has been an analyst for the Department of Justice for about seven years. Since she was deemed an “essential worker,” Rebecca is still reporting to work everyday, but with no pay.

“When the government shut down, it wasn’t too much of a shock,” Andrew said. “When it got to the point where we were going to lapse on a paycheck, we were in a situation where we could manage that for a while.”

Rebecca missed two paychecks in the last 36 days, her second one skipped just yesterday along with hundreds of thousands of other federal workers. She will get back pay when the government opens up, but until that happens the Crawfords will take the necessary steps to budget more and keep an extra close watch on their financial future.

“We contacted our bank, contacted our credit card agency,” Andrew said. “Different companies were offering different options for federal employees. Our mortgage company offered us a 90-day deferment for our mortgage payment if we needed to. Fortunately we did not have to do that.”

Yesterday Trump made a public statement that the government will temporarily reopen for three weeks and will fulfill back pay during that time. Andrew said that after Rebecca’s back pay comes in, they should be financially sound, but they’ll still try to prepare for a possible shutdown after the three weeks are up.

Other Bellevue residents, like home daycare and preschool provider Sheri Koski, are being financially affected through a ripple effect. One of her clients is a federal employee that’s in training to be a federal marshal. The client informed Koski that he was on furlough while picking up his 2-year-old son from daycare one afternoon.

Since Koski’s husband served in the Air Force for years and they’ve gone through government shutdowns themselves, her initial reaction was to put herself in her clients’ shoes.

“I’m somebody that likes to try and help people,” Koski said. “I approached them with the offer to just defer the payments until he gets paid and they were extremely appreciative.”

Koski charges a flat rate of $145 per week and her daycare and preschool is full right now with 12 children. Since she has a full group, Koski said that for now she’s able to wait to collect the money. She and the family are keeping track of the missed payments, and plan to hopefully settle the money once the husband receives back pay.

“It’s definitely a ripple effect,” Koski said. “I just put up a new fence last week and fences are not cheap. I’m not paying off my bills as fast. That’s about $600 a month [for one daycare bill], so I’m not able to make those payments.”

Koski and her family are financially stable, but the future of her clients’ payments is unclear. She said she wants to keep supporting the family as much as she can.

“If you know someone, invite them over to dinner or make dinner for them,” Koski said. “If you don’t know anyone, maybe start donating to a food shelter.”

Bellevue has one food pantry located in Olde Towne, and they take donations Mon-Thurs. Several other Omaha Metro businesses like Ref’s Sports Bar & Grill and Alamo Drafthouse are offering deals for federal workers in need.

Navy Federal and Cobalt credit unions both enacted their own assistance programs to help federal workers affected by the shutdown. At time of publication, both listed how to get started with assistance on their home pages.

The government will be open until Feb. 15. Trump said that if the bill to fund his proposed southern border wall doesn’t pass, he will either reclose the government or declare a state of emergency at the border in order to receive funding.