News

How Government Shutdowns Affect Students Locally

By: JONI OSWALD

Biting cold overtakes the atmosphere as winter persists across the country, causing  people everywhere to duck into their dwellings. This time of the year seems grayer than years past, for the sun’s sheltering behind the clouds is more noticeable than usual for United States citizens.

In families across America talk of politics invades the dinner table. Articles about the turmoil in Washington captivate the internet and news outlets. Thoughts of worry have engulfed the minds of the public as a whole and approximately 8,000 federal governments who have been deprived of their paychecks up until this point in time.

The cause of this issue stems from Trump’s demand for a $5 billion budget to construct the US-Mexico border wall. Democrats, who now hold the majority in congress, refused to give him the budget in order to fund this project. Many governmental agencies rely on congress to set the  budget. Since it was not set during this time period, many of these agencies shut down. While some are able to stand with unpaid workers, other parts have completely closed, leaving many employees strained from both their work and pay.

This delima not only affects those on Capitol Hill, but workers across the Independence and Kansas City area as well. Families with a primary income reliant on their governmental job are at major risk without their paycheck. Some will be deprived of their ability to pay basic household bills, daycare expenses, grocery shopping, and other financial necessities.

During times such as this, households may begin to adapt to a more frugal lifestyle as the days of a shutdown increase in count. Keeping count alongside many of these federal workers are the children of these employees. Witnessing the direct impact, these sons and daughters are often overlooked during these times of political hardship, for many eyes stay captivated by the media streams and newspaper headlines talking of the battle between the politicians in congress.

“My family is not rich or anything,” explains Lorna Green, a senior at St. Teresa’s Academy, “but my parents have never had to tell me ‘no you can’t get this right now’ or go to the store and not being able to spend more than the ten dollar bill my dad has in his wallet because there’s no paycheck being put into the account connected to the card. All of this was certainly eye opening”

However, while government workers catch the immediate detriment of the shutdown, much hardship is at stake for the overall community if closings such as this one drag on longer than expected. Without many of these federal departments, such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), many families would suffer from the repercussions that come without these provided services.

Michelle Le, a senior at Truman High School, and her family are one of many that had been affected in this sense. None of her family members work for the government, yet the repercussions can be just as pernicious. Frustration captivates her voice as she speaks on the topic. “My mom is paying for my brother, who’s currently in his last semester of college at the University of Massachusetts,” explains Le. “We were going to use the tax refund check to help get him through the rest of his tuition, but that will now come late.”

This idea of paying for college through these shutdowns is a question many students within this higher level of education are concerned about. Many students rely on the governmental funding they’ve received, such as
Pell Grants, Federal Direct Student Loans, and Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.  Fortunately, according to the Department of Education, the impact on college students relying on loans is likely to be minimal due to the fact that the department was already funded through congressional legislation.

High school seniors, however, may be at greater risks of these governmental shutdowns in the sake of education. While the Department of Education has followed its usual functions, the halt that the IRS undergoes puts students applying for FAFSA in a stressful situation. Entering the year of 2019, many applications for various colleges near their due dates. Tedious situations arose for students that had yet to fill their application out during the time frame of the shutdown. Essential documents such as W2 and tax return forms may cease to come in the mail. Le had felt this stress first hand, if the shutdown had prolonged further into the future, financial aid through this program would have been inaccessible for many due to failure of submission caused by the lack of access to these documents.

Running into this problem, the due date for Le do submit her FAFSA to the University of Missouri came on February 1st. “It’s frustrating because this whole situation is out of my hands. I’ve worked hard in school, I’ve stayed attentive to the things I need to do in order to get into college, yet this may had put a halt on everything.” Fortunately, she was able make the deadline after the government opened up Friday, January 25th.

While a sense of inconvenience arose out of many of these department closings, none took the whole community to detrimental shock- however, they have the potential to. Approximately 40 million people reliant on food stamps and free and reduced lunch across the country would suffer a lack of federal food nourishment, as the Department of Agriculture would soon cut off these programs had the shutdown continued into February. This would have directly affected Truman High School, as over half of the student body relies on free and reduced lunch.

Announcing the government’s reopening last Monday, January 28th, President Trump ended the longest shutdown in the United State’s history that began on December 22nd, 2018, lasting 35 days. The resolution will last until February 15th. During this duration, if a bill is yet to pass before reaching this date, another shutdown will be transpired.

Times of political stress, such as the days being endured currently, deepen hostility towards the politicians in office. Debate bombards congress, constitutional questions arise within the judiciary, and eyes turn to the president and his administration. Issues of this matter have the power to strip tolerance towards the government. “Politics in America have become so polarizing that we are willing to let millions of federal employees and their families go without paychecks because neither party wants to seem ‘weak’ or to ‘make a point,’” claims Green. Regardless whether one leans to the left or right on the political spectrum, this division between blue and red has deepened the divide in not only the federal government, but in the citizens of America as a whole.

Categories: News

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