How much are government employees paid
Shutdown in the USA : "The government employees are being held hostage"
Deandria Ackerman has just picked up her lunch. In a kind of soup kitchen. Somewhat embarrassed, she presents a brown paper bag that says “World Central Kitchen”. In the bag: a sandwich, a quinoa bowl with vegetables and a fennel and tomato soup, vegan. Deandria Ackerman is actually quite capable of buying her own lunch. But right now everything is different in Washington. There is a shutdown in the capital and across the country. Budget freeze because President Donald Trump does not want to sign a budget law that does not include the $ 5.7 billion he has demanded for a border wall with Mexico.
Nine of the 15 ministries and their subordinate authorities have completely or partially ceased work. Around 400,000 government employees are on unpaid leave, while a similar number have to continue working - unpaid. Like Deandria Ackerman, none of them have been paid since December 22nd.
The shutdown frustrates Ackerman, "but there is not much we can do about it." She too has to continue working without wages, as her work is seen as indispensable. The 30-year-old works for the national register of sex offenders and commutes around 70 kilometers to the capital from her home in Baltimore every day.
She works with sex offenders on probation, she deals with people who are mentally ill, addicted to drugs, or homeless. Ackerman has not been able to take a day off since the shutdown. Some colleagues are allowed to work from home, but this is often not even possible, for example in the laboratory where the drug tests are done. "We just can't not work," says Ackerman. “Every day people commit crimes, every day people are convicted, every day criminals are released. We make sure that they are then not a threat to their surroundings. "
The FBI is losing informants
Representatives of the Federal Police FBI also warned of a security risk on Tuesday. At a press conference, the president of the professional association FBIAA, Tom O’Connor, said that the budget freeze made the work of the investigative agency more difficult and that it is now a threat to national security. The FBIAA has produced a report it calls “Voices from the Field”. The association lists complaints from its members on 72 pages. Informants from the terror and drug scene would not have paid - and thus could not be kept, travel expenses would not be reimbursed, urgently needed equipment could not be purchased.
Those who are so important that they are excluded from what is now the longest shutdown in US history include the security officers at the airports. The number of sick leave is increasing rapidly, which in turn is felt by travelers when they have to wait in line for hours at the security checkpoint. If there is no agreement on the budget dispute, civil servants will have to waive their paychecks for the second time in a row this Friday.
After all: Trump decided last week that everyone directly affected by the shutdown will receive their wages retrospectively - which excludes those who are indirectly affected, for example grocers, restaurant owners and taxi drivers who do not have customers. But those directly affected also have to get by with what they have in their accounts until the shutdown ends, and that is usually - unlike in Germany, for example - very little.
As the US magazine "The Atlantic" reported in 2016, citing the central bank, half of Americans saved less than $ 400 for an emergency situation.
He is forbidden to enter his office
In the case of Sean Joyner, the situation is annoying, but not yet dramatic. Joyner is an attorney at the Home Office. His department is responsible for compliance with environmental regulations. Specifically, the 46-year-old has to do with the “Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act”, or in short: the Superfund. This is a government program that finances the remediation of hazardous material contaminated land owned by the state. Sean Joyner's job is to identify those responsible and either force them to repair the damage or pay for the cleanup.
This work has been suspended for 33 days. Joyner is prohibited from entering his office. He is allowed to read his e-mails for a maximum of 15 minutes a day, the company cell phone is taboo. "Every case of contamination that we wanted to address or ensure that it was removed is not being addressed now." For example, if a national park is contaminated with dangerous pollutants, it is currently not cleaned.
Joyner has to wait, can't make plans, can't travel, because theoretically he could have to return to work tomorrow - if the President and Congress come to an agreement. This Thursday it could theoretically be so far when two competing border security bills are put to a vote in the Senate.
If there is no agreement, and it looks like that because Trump does not want to let go of his wall and, conversely, the opposition Democrats consider it immoral and inefficient, the uncertainty will persist. Joyner annoys this. "The government employees are being held hostage." And he too is worried, although he is comparatively well. "So far I've missed a paycheck," he says. “My wife works and we have some savings too. But that won't last long either: We live with our two children in a very expensive part of the country. ”Joyner lives in the Washington suburb of Reston.
For many, it is much more difficult to do without their salary. But the solidarity is great. Banks are very accommodating to those affected, for example when loans are due. Soup kitchens are opening all over the country, and volunteers are cooking and distributing food. Celebrities like rock musician Jon Bon Jovi, who runs a restaurant in the town of Red Bank, New Jersey, invite officials and their families for lunch or dinner.
Not everyone wants to be seen accepting alms
At the Navy Memorial in downtown Washington, celebrity chef José Andrés and his team from “World Central Kitchen” have been supplying thousands of government employees with food for a week, such as Deandria Ackerman, the motto is “Chefs For Feds”. The civil servants can pick up a menu that changes daily between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., with fresh fruit, coffee and other drinks. Already on the first day the queue grew around the adjoining buildings, police officers, tax officials and other administrative staff patiently lined up.
José Andrés, who owns restaurants across the country, is best known for helping with his charity in disaster areas, for example after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.
The current disaster area is now here, in the capital of the United States of America. On Wednesday a week ago, the opening day of his gourmet soup kitchen, many of the guests pulled their hats down over their faces and put on sunglasses, not everyone wants to be seen accepting alms. The media rush on this day is also unbelievably large.
While a street artist outside entertains the waiting people with a repositioned version of “Stand By Me” - “Shutdown Go Away” - Nate Mook stands in the restaurant and patiently answers questions. “With four teams, we are currently helping millions of people around the world in poverty or in disaster areas,” says the managing director of “World Central Kitchen”. "Usually we deal with natural disasters, and now we deal with man-made."
The shutdown is also an emergency if hundreds of thousands cannot work and earn no money. "Lots of people struggle to get through," says Mook. “As an organization that takes care of people in need, we feel responsible.” What if the shutdown lasts for weeks? "We want to help as long as we can and are prepared to serve hundreds of thousands of meals if that is necessary."
In the case of Deandria Ackerman, that is not yet necessary. She's happy about the soup kitchen, but doesn't plan to come back often. “Others need it a lot more.” At the moment, her financial situation is halfway okay. But she also says: "If the shutdown continues for several weeks, it will be difficult."
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