Andrew Robinson was once proud to work for the U.S. government. Now, he says, the obligation is hurting his family,
The USDA program assistant says he appreciates his work, and the opportunity it gives him to uphold his own values.
“It fits almost every aspect of who I am and what I stand for,” Robinson wrote for CNN.
Now on furlough, Robinson is worried about his future, and the future of his family of four.
“My wife and I are public servants. We have worked in the public sector for the majority of our lives,” he wrote “She has been a public school teacher for 15 years. As for me, it started during the Boy Scouts. I have always had a calling to aid and assist. I ended up enlisting in the US Army as a military police officer. I spent five years proudly serving our nation in this capacity. I am now a disabled veteran with mental illness. We are your standard American family trying to make our mark in this world and raise our beautiful children in a positive, safe, fun atmosphere.”
Robinson says this is the second shutdown he’s endured as a government employee. The first, initiated during Barack Obama’s presidency, lasted for 16 days, and resulted in the passing of the Affordable Care Act.
“The last one I went through, did I stress, sure — the unknown during my first shutdown was mind-blowing,” Robinson wrote. “Did I wonder how long it was going to last? Of course, but I was optimistic the government would do what it could for its people. Did I job search? No, our government worked the issues out and made it right for the 800,000+ government employees.”
Robinson says he was confident the government would work something out in a timely manner in 2013. Six years later, he’s losing that confidence.
The current shutdown has so far lasted 30 days, and resulted in hundreds of thousands of federal workers and service members missing paychecks.
“Here I sit. I have a good job, with an income we cannot live without, but I’m job searching,” Robinson wrote. “I thought that getting a job with the government would provide my family with security. I left the private sector and took a pay cut to come work for the nation I love and be a public servant. I take pride in letting others know I work for the United States government. I love my country.”
Robinson and his wife managed to cover their expenses for December, but January isn’t looking so bright, and the financial stress is more than his family has prepared for.
“I emptied our emergency fund to buy tires for my vehicle and cover what I can for this upcoming mortgage,” Robinson wrote. “So, that resource is depleted. I have contacted my mortgage lender and thankfully, they have a program to help — but I am essentially going to have to take out a loan. This is all while we are trying to build our credit.”
“The things that race through my head at night when I am trying to settle in to go to sleep go like this: “What if this goes on for the ‘years’ like I’ve heard on the news? What if I can’t find a job? What then? Unemployment cannot support my family and me right now.”
-Furloughed USDA program assistant Andrew Robinson
Robinson says he’s applied for unemployment benefits, but he may have to wait nearly three weeks for a deposit.
“My 8-year-old asks me when I am going back to work. She is thinking about it, anxious — an 8-year-old child,” he continues. “She knows the reality because the news is everywhere. She is 8. She does not need to worry about when her daddy is going back to work. She should be a kid and live a carefree youth. Thankfully, my 2-year-old doesn’t know the difference.”
The federal government shutdown hinges on funding for a border wall between the U.S. in Mexico. President Donald Trump has refused to approve reopening the government until funding for the wall is secured through congress. According to Politifact, total costs for the 30-foot-high, 2,000 miles long border wall have been estimated at anywhere between $4-$70 billion.
No matter how much the wall costs, Robinson is well aware of what government inaction is costing his family.
“I do have one thing to say if my story makes it up to our leaders. This is what I want them to hear,” he wrote. “We work our butts off striving for the very best for our government. We are working for you and the American people. You are our leaders. You can’t treat us this way. I get it, they say life is not fair, but this is just absolutely absurd. We should not be forced to start job searching again in order to support our families.
“Unemployment, taking out loans, having family members offering to loan money, is not what the American dream is about. What about those who still have to go to work for no paycheck? They do not have the time to job search and tailor their resume like I do. Then you have the Office of Personnel Management and the Coast Guard sending messages with ideas on how to get by. Barter with your landlord. Have a garage sale, they say. How is a garage sale, in the Kansas City snow, supposed to substitute for actual income earned every two weeks? Give us a break. Please, please, please put your differences aside. Your people are struggling.
“Now it’s time to get back to job searching. This is my reality.”Whizzco