The dust has far from settled in Washington, D.C., after a three-day government shutdown came to a messy end Monday. Hundreds of federal employees, including African Americans, were back on their jobs Tuesday, but with renewed fears.
Many frantic workers contemplated important questions: Will there be another government shutdown? Will history repeat itself? Will their lives be in limbo once again?
Those questions were especially poignant for Felicia Sharp, a Black lab tech with the Defense Department at Fort Belvoir in northern Virginia. Sharp previously felt the storm of the 2013 government shutdown, a dramatic two weeks that left many employees hanging in the wind. The mother had to take on two part-time jobs to pay bills during the shutdown, she told The Associated Press recently.
Sharp, who also serves as a local president for the American Federation of Government Employees, acknowledged the toll that a furlough takes on employees, placing doubt and fear that another shutdown could happen. The deal approved by Congress only opens and funds the government until February 8, CBS News reported. It is a deal that is really a temporary fix for a complicated matter, complete with a looming deadline.
The deal “only just postpones the inevitable for a while,” Sharp, who returned to work Monday, said, with the upcoming deadline having the potential to reinforce the same fears of employees. “It will be the same situation all over again.”
Members of the American Federation of Government Employees, representing 700,000 federal and D.C. government workers, were “exasperated” with the “inability” of Congress and Trump to settle on a budget, J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said.
“We can’t be the ball for the pingpong game,” Cox said following Senate Democrats agreeing to the temporary spending bill in return for promises that GOP leaders would soon address immigration and other big issues.
It’s worth noting that several federal employees are deemed more essential than others. When shutdowns happen, some federal departments lose more workers than others.
But the costs and damage that comes with a shutdown can drastically affect the lives of federal employees. Workers lose living wages and government services that millions of working families depend on are compromised. Congress must weigh these facts and listen to the concerned voices of federal employees, including those representing communities of color.