Stories of the Affected: Local perspectives of the 2019 government shutdown

Different viewpoints following the 2018-19 government shutdown

Stories of the Affected: Local perspectives of the 2019 government shutdown

Sunjin Chang and Lakshanyaa Ganesh

For the past month, around 800,000 federal employees did not receive payment for their government jobs or government-funded work, according to John Fritze of USA Today in an interview with Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. The services that the nation takes for granted became increasingly harder to access as fewer national employees were present at their workplaces. Workers were calling in sick to avoid work, since they were aware they won’t be paid, and many other non-essential government workers were also being furloughed, or being granted unpaid time away from their jobs. The government has issued a temporary three week reopening as of Jan. 27,2019. 

Federal Worker

Federal worker Savita Varma remembers all too clearly being glued to the TV the night the Trump administration announced the official shutdown of the government on December 22. While she received a paycheck for the two weeks that she worked before the shutdown was announced, which has helped sustain her and her daughter, MVHS freshman Shivani Varma, through January, not being able to work for a month has brought a considerable amount of strain on their family.

Living in the Bay Area, paying her bills for rent and utilities has proven to be difficult. Through some loans provided by the Menlo Survey Federal Credit Union, Savita and Shivani have been able to live with minimal lifestyle changes, but they still found their living situation stressful.

“It doesn’t matter to me personally that much because at some point we’ll be able to do things we used to do,” Shivani said. “It definitely is a change, but I don’t mind it.”

After being a federal employee for 11 years, this isn’t the first government shutdown Savita has experienced. She also went through the 16-day government shutdown of 2013.

For Savita, there are many differences between the 2013 shutdown and the 2018 shutdown. For one, the length of the most recent shutdown was a surprise to her. During the shutdown in 2013, Savita says she believed federal employees’ jobs were a top priority for the Obama administration, but doesn’t see the same sense of urgency reflected in the current administration.

“[Republicans and Democrats] are not even talking to each other,” Savita said. “They’re not trying to negotiate and that’s very unsettling. It tells you you don’t know if there’s a lot more uncertainty now than then. There was uncertainty in 2013 but this is worse.”

For Shivani, seeing her mother under distress poses a different kind of challenge. She has experienced furloughs and shutdowns in the past with her mother, but not to this degree.

“This [shutdown] especially, all of a sudden so many things are happening like Russia,” Shivani said. “There’s a lot of other stuff being called to the front so I think this one is more important.”

As the reopening has an unclear future, Shivani understands the agitation her mother may feel and hopes her mother will distance herself from the news. Though staying updated is important, Shivani is worried that her mother is receiving unnecessary stress from the media.

“If you get your job back, someone will contact you,” Shivani said. “Just watching the news itself is making her angry and she’s making it worse for herself but I can see why she’s doing that.”




The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,  manages the security of public transportation nationwide. From airplane security to the luggage examination, TSA guarantees the safety of the airport. However, with a drastic decrease in TSA workers, the security of the public transportation nationwide was jeopardized.

In a statement, the TSA expressed gratitude for their officers who have continued to carry out the mission of securing the transportation system during this period.

Transportation Security Officers are among the most mission-oriented and dedicated people in government,” TSA said. “We also acknowledge the stress that the partial government shutdown places on our officers and their families and are extremely grateful for their commitment.”

TSA promised to continue their security management across the country through functional checkpoints. Except for workers who are unable to afford childcare or gas due to the shutdown, the TSA union requested all other employees to report for work. They were also working to minimize average wait times to prevent degradation in their security effectiveness, but acknowledged that their effectiveness and average wait times were “well within TSA standards.”



Junior Anjana Parasuram believes that the shutdown reflects poorly on America as a whole, and doesn’t think the intentions behind the shutdown were worth the hardships that federal employees were facing.

She considers the main reason behind the shutdown —- funding for the Mexican-American border wall — isn’t the best use of the U.S. government’s money. Instead, she believes the money should go towards other pressing issues the nation faces, such as the Flint water crisis, education reform and working to reduce the large student debt college graduates face.

“I think what’s even more interesting is that the wall is more of a symbol, because it has no utility,” Parasuram said. “We’re having this shutdown to send the wrong message to the rest of the world, to build something that doesn’t even have any use value.”

For Parasuram, this shutdown came as a surprise. She took Trump’s declaration of building a border wall as a mere campaign tactic, as opposed to an actual plan he was intent on enacting.

“I was surprised because when Donald Trump first got elected, I didn’t actually think he would build a wall,” Parasuram said. “I didn’t think that he would actually get the support for building the wall. On top of that, I was surprised that a lot of people around the country support building the wall and aren’t worried about the extreme amounts of money and resources being depleted.”