How the Fed Government Shutdown Has Affected 3 Prince William Families

| January 15, 2019 | 0 Comments | News

Reuters journalists interview Cher Muzyk at an anti government shutdown rally. (Photo by Laura Cowell.)

The partial U.S. Federal Government shutdown has been the longest in history. It began on Dec. 22. and has extended far into January. With every passing day federal workers and their families have had to stretch their budgets further and further. Essential workers have even had to show up to work without receiving a paycheck, leaving them little time to take temporary work.

In Prince William County families are being hurt by the government shutdown. While the media is primary talking about the closing of agencies, national parks and political standoffs, local people are trying to grapple with how to budget for their families when they have no idea when they will be paid.

Cher: The Face of American Families Affected by the Shutdown

Cher Muzyk of Nokesville attended a D.C. protest against the shutdown, Thursday. It affects her family personally as her husband is furloughed from his job. She has since spoken to local, national and international media, regarding shutdown.

“I felt compelled to because I felt like all of the coverage I was seeing on TV and in other media were just numbers, no human face. No ‘my family is in trouble,'” she said.

Muzyk has become more politically active in the past few years and decided she would become that face to deliver a message: “There are real families in Virginia and all across the country who are scared. It is scary times for real hardworking families.”

Muzyk believes her story will ring true for many federal workers. Cher’s husband is a lawyer who took a substantial pay cut to work for the federal government because he believes in the mission.

They have four-year-old twins and moved out to Nokesville so that they could own a family home and Cher could stay home with the children as they are little. To make that work, her husband drives two hours to work each way.

However, with the ongoing partial government shutdown, her husband, considered “essential staff” is still commuting back and fourth to work, but the family is not seeing a paycheck.

She said it is “terrifying and frustrating” because they have no idea when it will end and whether their small savings will last the duration.

To make it work in the short-term, they have severely cut back on family expenses. No more restaurants and babysitters. They are purchasing only the bare minimum at the grocery store. If it lasts much longer, she may have to pull her children out of preschool.

Muzyk knows people are hit even harder, and sympathizes with those people. But she notes  it is only a short amount a time before they and most families run through their savings.

“We’re just a working family raising kids, and it’s important for us to receive our paycheck,” she said.

Although shutdowns have occurred before, no one goes into public service expecting to go weeks, months or years without a paycheck. She expected government officials to have “integrity” and not make a shutdown drag out. “They are holding federal workers hostage and saying ‘it’s either this or that.’”

Cher Muzyk and a friend protest against the government shutdown outside the Whitehouse in January of 2019. (Photo by Laura Cowell.)

She has called her Congressman, Rob Wittman (R-1st District) asking him to vote to end the shutdown. She is not satisfied with the government just providing back pay. “That’s not going to fix our credit report. We can’t go back in time. Justice delayed is justice denied.”

If there has been a silver lining, Muzyk said she has felt very supported by her community. “Our Representatives and our president is saying ‘you are either for the wall or you’re against the wall.’ That’s not how are communities are. Our communities are kind and our values are to help each other.”

She is grateful so many people have reached out and said: come over for dinner, let me show you how to coupon, I’ll watch your kids. Can I bring you a meal?”

“Americans are getting back to just kindness and helping people. They are just ignoring the rhetoric coming out of the Whitehouse.”

Hillary Malsch: A Family Living Overseas During the Government Shutdown

Hillary Mead Malsch lived in Gainesville, Virginia for nine years. Today she is living in Kazahstan with her husband who works for the FBI. She said being overseas during a government shutdown is frightening and even dangerous.

“It feels quite scary, almost like we are trapped here,” she said. “We lean on the good will of foreign country government and that’s pretty shaky.”

She said the FBI works to develop a good working relationship with government agents in a foreign counties, but having everything just stall is “embarrassing, frustrating and scary.”

Thousands of people rally in the streets of D.C., protesting the government shutdown. (Photo by Laura Cowell.)

Malsch would feel much safer if she were back in the states, because there she would have a support system of family, friends and community. “I don’t know if I would drive to my parents’ house, but at least I’d have the option to do that. I can’t be a substitute teacher at my kid’s school,” she said.

Malsch said they do not even have the options of going to a food kitchen, which is not for Americans.

She believes America’s politicians should know better than to shutdown the government because they do not fully comprehend the ramifications. She doubts they gave any thought to how it would affect diplomacy.

“This is duplicated around the world,” she said, and emphasizes just how important these relationships are for the U.S.

She feels mainly helpless but has reached out to her Congressman, Rob Wittman. “We have been emailing him, especially because he has been sending out emails that are completely nonsensical and out of touch.” She has asked family members to contact anyone they can in congress.

Malsch believes immigration needs a fair share of reforms, but is not in favor of the wall. “I’m not aware of anyone who believes the wall will be effective. There are so many more effective things that would make a difference.”

Maggie Hansford: Government Workers are Public Servants, Friends and Neighbors

Maggie Hansford of Bristow is a Prince William County elementary school teacher and the Democratic candidate for Brentsville Supervisor. She wants people to know the importance of federal employees to the country and the effect they have on the community.

Her whole family works in public service: she’s a teacher, her husband is an attorney for federal law enforcement, her brother works for border patrol, her sister-in-law is a customs agent and her sister is a police officer. She understands that federal workers want to serve their nation and communities.

Maggie Hansford at the Kelly Center, advocating for Prince William County teachers.

“Federal workers are your friends, your families your neighbors. There is a face to all these people being impacted,” she said.

The public servants she knows feel a sense of duty towards their jobs and do not go into the work for the money. “We all are public servants,” she said. “We’re middle class families with really important jobs.”

The Hansford family is acutely feeling the pinch of the shutdown. Like everyone else, they have no idea when it will end, which makes budgeting impossible.

“We don’t live paycheck to paycheck, but we live darn close. We have savings, but we don’t have savings for months and years. If there is no ending, that means that we’re not spending money,” she said.

Hansford expects a trickle down effect throughout the D.C. metro area, including Prince William County, saying “It has to be impacting our community outside of federal employees. If federal working families are not spending that means local business is impacted.”

Hansford does not believe federal workers should be the victims of political squabbling.

She said he has called Rep. Wittman’s office every day.  She is not moved by Wittman’s offered to give up his salary during the shutdown. Government workers cannot afford to go without their paychecks.

She is happy her employer Prince William County is offering to hire temporary workers and making sure every student can eat. She applauds the Loudoun County Supervisors for providing money to help their community members. She hopes Prince William Supervisors can provide some assistance as well. Most of all, she hopes politicians can decouple the wall argument and congress can reopen the government.

“There are a lot of amazing people working for our country. They are not asking for a handout. They just literally want to do their jobs and be paid for it. They are Just asking that our government be open and that partisan politics aren’t being played on our backs.”

© 2019, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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