Furloughed Federal Employees

Federal Employees Put on Leave or Forced to Work Without Pay During the Shutdown

By Taryn Womack, Intern

Starting the 22nd of December, President Donald Trump pushed the United States government into a shutdown over funding for his border wall. While many people support this decision and believe it is the right thing to do in order to get increased security along the Mexican border, they don’t realize the major consequences of shutting down the government.

As we continue into the longest government shutdown in our history, over 800,000 federal employees are going without another paycheck. Employees are being forced to work without any promise of pay and there seemed to be no end in sight. The departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation and Treasury are all affected by the shutdown.

Workers who are “deemed essential” are forced to work without pay while other “non-essential workers” are furloughed or put on temporary leave (Al Jazeera). Workers have begun suing the government claiming involuntary servitude for the forced unpaid labor and calling it inhumane.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has closed many of its departments. This has caused a lot of panic among the American population as they worry whether or not they’re going to get their tax refunds, but the IRS has confirmed that refunds will still be issued, but at a slower pace. It might take even longer because many employees have been calling in sick due to their unpaid wages. (Paquette et al).

With Homeland Security affected as well, there is a pause on tens of thousands of immigration cases. Because of the shutdown, anyone who wants to come into the country legally won’t be able to. Jason Hopkins of The Daily Caller says there are approximately 43,000 immigration court hearing cancellations. The situation is only exacerbating, with another 20,000 additional cases expected to be canceled for every week the government doesn’t resume normal operations.

Roads and wildlife are also getting left behind as workers are put on leave. Since they aren’t seen as “essential,” those who pick up trash in the parks, plough roads, or work at zoos and museums were given leave and it has affected the places they work. There are people who can’t get emergency care because the roads hadn’t been ploughed. Parks, zoos, and museums are closed to the public because there is no one working them. Trash is overflowing and piling up at national and public parks and if it continues, it can become environmentally destructive.

Another department that closed down was the FDA. From the beginning of the shutdown, to the 15th of January, there was no one inspecting the food or drugs going out to the public. While they may have been forced back to work after being furloughed, they still remain unpaid.

Transportation workers are working without pay or not working at all. According to Governing, Daniel Vock says “Most of the employees with the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Transit Administration, as well as safety inspectors, have been furloughed. But airport safety screeners who work for the Transportation Safety Administration must continue to work, even though they aren’t getting paid.” With this, commutes have become harder for those who have to travel from city to city. Along with that, about ten percent of TSA workers have called in sick because they haven’t been paid.

All of these employees, all 800,000 of them, have had to find other means of money and food. Many of them have had to go to food banks to feed their families. Parts of their insurance, like dental, have been cut and they can no longer get coverage for it.


On January 25th, President Trump temporarily ended the shutdown. With this Federal workers will be receiving back-pay for the two missed paychecks, but it could take days before they see anything. Many are hoping to see a paycheck the first week of February. With the temporary lift of the shutdown, it takes a lot of stress off of the 800,000 people that it affected, but it is still worrisome if the shutdown were to be reinstated.


Living in a Community

By Samuel Hogarth, Contributor 

From an evolutionary perspective, we are a tribal species. Before cities and towns existed, humans would collect into small communities, self-sufficient units of at most a few hundred people, generally less. The unification of much larger numbers of humans into a small space has led to an emotional detachment from the majority of the people around us. This was my experience for all of my childhood and the first couple of years of adulthood.

Twice in my life I have had the pleasure of being part of an isolated, close-knit community in which I was able to bond much easier and more deeply with those around me. It was in these communities that I felt a level of peace and openness that I have rarely felt elsewhere.

Kalani- A Wellness Retreat

The first was Kalani, a wellness retreat located on the Big Island of Hawaii. It’s difficult to articulate the profound changes I underwent in my three months there, but I’ll have a go. When you are part of such a community, it has its own soul. It attracts people who have the same interests, or at the very least who are searching for something and believe they may find answers there. There were about eighty of us at any one time, some who were staying for a few weeks or a month, some for three months like myself, and some for even longer. You find that when you are in a remote location, in a bubble so to speak, you are forced to open yourself up to your neighbours. Those who are introverted have no choice but to break out of their shell and interact if they want to thrive, and in my experience, thrive they did. I witnessed young men and women who were clearly shy roaring with laughter at the dinner table with the new friends they had connected with. A community like Kalani attracts people who embody what it stands for- in this retreat’s case, the living of Aloha, spiritual practise, and harmony between and among humanity and nature. Unfortunately, Kalani was forced to close, but there are other retreats like it and the members of the Ohana who passed through it will never forget their experience in this magical place.

Sundance- A Guest Horse Ranch

The second community I became a part of was a guest horse ranch called Sundance in BC, Canada. Again, it was remote, and again it attracted people who shared a passion- for horses and for the outdoors. You could sit at the table with someone you had just met and arrange to go on a hike with them later that day. You could be telling them your life story within a few hours at the top of a hill, looking out at the sunset over big sky country (hopefully they asked to hear it and you aren’t just ranting). You form bonds in a couple of days that it would normally take weeks or months to form in your regular town/city life, because you spend all of your time with that small group of people (about 30 – 40 staff at any one time on this ranch). Because communities like this attract travellers, you connect with others who also have the spirit of adventure, and so you find yourself involved in spontaneous day trips to waterfalls, mountains and other surrounding wonders. You form lifelong bonds, partly because you have shared an experience with this group of people that maybe your friends and family back home won’t understand.


Some words of advice- be aware of three effects that are bound to occur as a result of your time in such a community:

  1. Both at the beginning and throughout you may feel overwhelmed at times by the intensity of your experience, by the strength and fast-paced nature of these friendships you are forming and how different it is from your previous notions of society. Take time to be by yourself and reflect when this happens.
  2. When you eventually leave this community, you may find it difficult to readjust to the outside world. You will be confused by scenarios that perhaps once seemed normal to you, and alternatively may be comfortable with events that once seemed alien. When I left Kalani, I couldn’t understand why strangers didn’t talk to each other, or smile, or hug, because that’s just what we did there. Again, take time to reflect when you feel overwhelmed by the contrast.
  3. Be prepared for the possibility that your friends and family, who perhaps previously you could share everything with, might not be willing or able to listen or relate to your adventure, because they didn’t experience it for themselves and it seems too foreign to their lifestyle. That’s okay, people are different and maybe they’ll have an adventure of their own one day and then they’ll understand yours better. Or they won’t; people are different and if you’ve changed so much on your journey that the friendship no longer makes sense, it may be time to let it go.


My recommendation is to find a community of your own, one that embodies your interests or inspires a sense of wonder when you picture being part of it. You’ll be surprised by how much you grow and thrive in such an environment.


To read more of Samuel’s adventurous input click here