Workers Describe How They’re Trying to Survive the Trump Shutdown

“Not knowing if I can pay the rent or feed my family next week is hard.”

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

At a Christmas Day press conference, President Donald Trump told reporters that federal workers had signaled to him that they were happy to be furloughed or working without pay. But as the partial government shutdown enters its fifth day, federal workers, contractors, and others who face an indefinite period without a paycheck have taken to Twitter using the hashtag #ShutdownStories to share how it’s affecting their lives.

After Trump insisted that a bill to fund the government include money for a border wall with Mexico, the government entered a partial shutdown on Friday at midnight, after the Senate failed to reach an agreement to keep the government open. More than 380,000 federal workers have been furloughed, while more than 420,000 are deemed “essential” and working without pay. The partial shutdown affects a number of agencies, including the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. Low-wage federal contractors who work as janitors, security guards, and cafeteria servers will also be forced to take leave—and will not receive back pay even if Congress signs legislation authorizing it.

One woman described how her husband may have to go without pay in the new year, even though he is a member of the military.

In the wee hours of Christmas morning, a man tweeted that with the training for his new government job canceled by the shutdown, he has been left in a desperate situation.

Parents also took to Twitter to describe how the shutdown was affecting their children.

When Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) was asked about retroactive pay for workers, he replied, “Who’s living that they’re not going to make it to the next paycheck?” But for many workers, a recurring theme was fear about paying rent or mortgages.

The shutdown took place during the busy holiday travel season, and a man spoke to a Transportation Security Administration employee who was working for free on Christmas Day.

The White House, meanwhile, has indicated that the shutdown may last into the new year. “It’s very possible that this shutdown will go beyond the 28th and into the new Congress,” acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Sunday. The reason? Trump refuses to back down until he gets funding for the wall. “I can’t tell you when the government is going to reopen,” he said on Christmas Day. “I can tell you it’s not going to be open until we have a wall, a fence, whatever they’d like to call it.”


as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.


as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.