Jackie Perkins, a 51-year-old single mother and the Transportation Security Association lead officer at O’Hare Airport, said she was lucky she received her child support check before the government shutdown began this week. But now Perkins’ larger concern is how she will pay her mortgage next month.
The Chicago Department of Aviation notified Perkins, a federal employee, that her next payday is unknown because of the government shutdown. Perkins said employees will no longer be paid for sick days and many employees had to cancel planned vacations.
Since the government shutdown began Tuesday, thousands of Chicagoans who work for the federal government as employees or contractors, are in Perkins’ same position. They have been forced into drastically diminished workplace circumstances, relying on reduced government services. Some are merely frustrated with the current situation.
Debra Johnson, an examiner of workers’ compensation claims at the Federal Building on Dearborn Avenue in the Loop, said she is equally worried about her next payday. She doesn’t know if she will be paid before Nov. 1.
Johnson said other employees who were furloughed are able tomay file for unemployment in order to compensate for their missing workdays. Because she was deemed essential, and therefore has to work during the shutdown, she cannot apply for unemployment even though she is not receiving a paycheck.
The United States General Services Administration, the federal agency that oversees the business of the U.S. government, issued an official statement on its website stating, “GSA have limited personnel that will be available to assist federal agencies in GSA owned and leased buildings to provide support for life safety, property protection, contracting, communications and IT services.”
The shutdown’s effects stretched far beyond federal employees.
Ora Boyd, 42, was headed to court to file for bankruptcy but needed a copy of her social security card first. That office was closed so now she is unsure when she will be able to complete her court filing.
Ray Hayhurst, a transportation planner from the Maryland-based KFH Group, was in town for this week’s American Public Transit Association Conference. He said the shutdown led to the cancellation of a number of speakers along with personal issues with his company.
“The Federal Transportation Agency has to approve some of these plans for funding, so we’ll have a huge backlog on some of these projects,” Hayhurst said.
Dwight Chambers, a 39-year-old in Chicago for his brother’s wedding, described the shutdown as a “big headache,” though he said he had faith that “it would all work out.”
Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) called the shutdown “a ridiculous stunt by the right wing of the Republican Party.”
“I’m hopeful that it gets worked out in the next 24 to 48 hours so it doesn’t have any effects,” added Moreno.
Republicans blame the president and the Democrats for the shutdown, while the Democrats fault the Republican party and their efforts to kill Obamacare.
Chicago residents seeking passports or visas do not have to worry about the shutdown. That office is still open.
Ten to 12 people were in line at the U.S. Passport Agency office in the Loop Wednesday. Two police officers posted at the door prevented reporters from talking to people inside.
“The passport office continues to process applications in spite of the shutdown,” said Beth Finian, spokeswoman for the Department of State in Washington.
Others made preparations to accommodate repercussions of the shutdown.
Mary Pettinato, Chicago CEO of Honor Flight, an organization that flies veterans from all across the country to Washington D.C., received a particularly warm welcome in the Capitol. Over 100 different congressmen accompanied the latest group of 91 veterans from Chicago, including Illinois Senators Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk through open barriers to the memorial.
Sylvia Patricia Obén, Danielle Dwyer, Sheila Headspeth, Corita E. Mitchell, Brittany Delk, Veronica Renee Rios, and Sydney Lawson contributed to this story.