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Shutdown Forces Many Workers To Live Well Below Their Means


The partial government shutdown is four weeks old. And to make ends meet, unpaid federal workers across this country have been borrowing money or dipping into savings or resorting to emergency measures.


Nate Mook is the executive director of an emergency kitchen in Washington, D.C. It's just a few blocks from the White House. It's run by Michelin-starred chef Jose Andres. They are serving free meals to furloughed workers.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Hi. How are you? Good.



NATE MOOK: When you see hundreds and hundreds of people standing out in the cold, waiting for a hot plate of food and a fresh, hot cup of coffee, it's clear that something is wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: What would you like to have today? Mac and cheese, as well?

MOOK: There is a sense of community here. People are talking to each other, sharing their stories, you know, making the best of a really tough situation. But clearly, people here are struggling.

INSKEEP: Outside, we spoke with Daniel Lewis (ph), who is just starting his career in the federal government in the Department of Agriculture, like his dad. Both are grappling with hard decisions due to the shutdown.

DANIEL LEWIS: This was actually the very, very, very first shutdown where a check was missed. And when that happened, I think reality really kicked in to him and says, well, I guess maybe I'm not essential. Maybe if I'm not essential, I could essential my way into retirement. (Laughter). That's how he said it. So with that being said, he did tell me, brace for it. You know, it may be a long ride until the end. But whatever happens, just, you know, continue fighting through it. You got to roll with the punches.

And it's caused me to have some thoughts, or second thoughts or second doubts - not having a place to go, a lot of unknowns. You know, being a homeowner's kind of frustrating 'cause you don't know when you're going to get your next check and how you're going to pay the bills. It really comes down to that. So right now I'm trying to come up with a backup plan as we speak.

GREENE: And let's go now to Michigan, where Stephanie Perkins (ph) is planning to rally in downtown Detroit today in support of her fellow furloughed workers.

STEPHANIE PERKINS: I work for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. And what we do is we investigate discrimination complaints in the private sector in the workforce. And these citizens of the United States who have come to a federal agency seeking help, these people are not being served. Federal employees have absolutely nothing to do with the budget process. We don't have any say in how much goes where, when, how or whatever. So it's ironic to me that we're caught in the middle of this budget issue that we have absolutely nothing to do with.

Most of the people that work for the federal government - in fact, the overwhelming majority of people who work for the government, we're dedicated, patriotic people who want to serve our country, and this is our way of doing it. And to put us out on the street like this over something that we have absolutely no control over, to me, is shameful.

INSKEEP: Voices of some furloughed workers. We're on the job, and we'll continue bringing you voices from people affected by the shutdown as it enters a fifth week. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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