New Yorkers highlight the human cost of the government shutdown

government shutdown furloughed workers
Charlie McNally, with his 16-month-old son, has been furloughed from HUD for nearly two weeks. He and his wife, who now works part time, are cutting back on non-essentials.
Credit: Bess Adler

After two weeks furloughed from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Charlie McNally, 33, began looking at the application to file for unemployment benefits this weekend.

“We’ve cut back to the bare essentials and our cushion is running out,” McNally explained, describing what furloughed life is like in Sunnyside, Queens with his wife and 16-month old son.

McNally is one of at least 27,000 federal workers in the city left adrift during the shutdown, worrying about mortgage payments and rent, college tuition, health care and even food.

government shutdown furloughed workers
Cynthia McKnight, furloughed from HUD, said she’s delayed taking her family to the eye doctor during the shutdown to avoid co-pays.
Credit: Bess Adler

Clinton Hill resident and HUD employee Cynthia McKnight has been financially supporting her mother since she had a stroke last year.

“You do save, but it’s still a hardship,” said McKnight, whose 18-year-old just started classes at Baruch College. “I just get the necessities. Food — I shop at a co-op now to save money.”

Many workers like McKnight were not only concerned about the shutdown’s effect on their families and coworkers, but the citizens their departments serve.

“It is services that are not there for the people,” U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney said at a rally in front of the East Midtown Society Security Office on Monday.

The shutdown is even preventing people from getting help that should be available to them.

Shawnee Swinton, a Bedford-Stuyvesant resident furloughed from Health and Human Services, said she was denied unemployment benefits because she couldn’t access the right W-2 forms during the shutdown.

“It impacts my ability to take care of the family, pay my bills, be able to provide food,” said the 46-year-old single mother of two.

Shawnee Swinton, furloughed from HHS, worries about paying back unemployment after the shutdown is over. Credit: Bess Adler
Shawnee Swinton, furloughed from HHS, worries about paying back unemployment after the shutdown is over.
Credit: Bess Adler

“New York is very expensive and a lot of people already live paycheck to paycheck,” McKnight added.

McNally’s wife, working part time for the past month after having their son, is now the family’s sole breadwinner. The couple is considering taking out loans to pay for their mortgage, due Nov. 2, should the stalemate continue.

“One of the big perks — you think — when getting into federal services is the stability that it offers, and if that disappears that’s a big problem,” McNally said.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders


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