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Federal Workers Still Struggle After Shutdown Ends

Money Concerns Remain for Air Traffic Controller's Family

Food Bank of Santa Barbara
Courtesy Photo

Ms. Brinkley and her family are among the thousands who have been affected by the government shutdown. While President Trump signed a measure on Friday to temporarily reopen the government until February 15, federal workers, such as Brinkley’s husband, who works as an air traffic controller at the Santa Barbara airport, still have to wait several days for their paychecks to be processed. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), workers will receive paychecks no later than January 31. However, overtime pay, which Brinkley’s husband is owed, will not be sent out until the following paycheck.

The Independent met Brinkley, who asked her first name not be used, at a Foodbank distribution site shortly before Trump signed the measure. Brinkley and her husband have four kids at home, 10-year-old twins, an 11-year-old, and a 16-year-old. Some of their children are adopted. “We took them out of that situation, and now we can’t feed them,” said Brinkley, remarking on her husband’s job. “We sacrificed so much to get him in the position, and we end up still not being able to pay rent or feed our family.

Food Bank of Santa Barbara
Paul Wellman

“We don’t know where the next dollar is coming from,” continued Brinkley. Her kids didn’t qualify for free lunch at school, and now she’s tasked with figuring out how to pack lunches for them. “All for a wall,” she said, wiping away tears. Brinkley didn’t really follow politics prior to the shutdown but is now paying much closer attention. “Our survival depends on it,” she said.

Brinkley works at an area grocery store and tried to pick up more shifts during the shutdown, but it wasn’t easy, she said. Some of her husband’s coworkers who commute to work from Santa Maria or Ventura faced difficult questions, she added: “Do I feed my family or put gas in the car?”

It’s been a difficult learning experience for Brinkley’s family, she said. Now, they think about things in terms of desire versus necessity. “Is this something we want, or is this something we need?” she said. Brinkley recently learned her family could apply to receive unemployment benefits, though HUD has announced anyone who receives benefits must repay them.

The Foodbank’s food distribution for workers affected by the shutdown continues. Federal employees can visit the warehouse locations in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and at the Federal Correctional Staff Housing Training Center at 242 Oakridge Road in Lompoc on Wednesday and Fridays from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Call 2-1-1 for more information.

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