Opening up about the shutdown

Seniors struggle to turn in applications due to shutdown

Lucy Tu, Co-Editor-in-Chief

“Due to the recent government shutdown, this service is not available at this time. Normal operations will resume as soon as possible. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

This message was delivered across the United States, heard as an automated phone response, and seen on computer screens as individuals attempted to access closed government websites. To some, this line was a mere annoyance or a headline flashing across a news broadcast. For others, it meant much more.

On Dec. 22, 2018, the federal government entered an official shutdown over conflicts between President Trump and Congressional Democrats. Although Congress was expected to confirm an annual budget by midnight on Dec. 21, Trump’s demand for a five billion dollar budget for a U.S.-Mexico border wall and Democrats’ subsequent refusals sent budget plans to a screeching halt.

With only five out of twelve bills passed for government funding, a number of federal departments were forced to temporarily discontinue their services. National parks closed, social security and Medicare provided only limited services, and an estimated 800,000 federal employees went without pay. The shutdown sparked a chain reaction across the country, with some of the country’s youngest being the most affected.

Senior Will Talbot has already committed to the University of Nebraska Omaha for the 2019-2020 school year. However, although Talbot knows which school he will attend, his financial situation and future career path remain uncertain due to the shutdown.

“There’s a scholarship through the Defense Intelligence Agency [DIA] called the [Louis Stokes Educational Program]. All my college would be paid for. I’d have a yearly salary, full-time work working for the DIA and the [National Security Agency],” Talbot said. “But the application site [was] shut down, and they [couldn’t] fix it because of the government shutdown.”

Talbot is far from the only student impacted. Across the U.S., high school and college students were unable to definitively apply for financial aid, due to a lack of official documents from the temporarily closed Internal Revenue Service (IRS) department. Although the reopening of the government on Feb. 25 resulted in some students rejoicing and relaxing, for others, the consequences of the shutdown were already permanent.

Missouri and Tennessee required students to apply by Feb. 1, meaning many students were left rushing to get financial aid forms filled in. In Texas, those attending a public college were required to submit forms by Jan. 15 for priority consideration, a deadline which could not be met due to the shutdown. Additionally, for students like Talbot, by the time the shutdown had ended, it was too late to apply for important scholarships.

“At this point, I won’t have a shot at the scholarship because it’s too late in the year,” Talbot said. “This government shutdown is costing me an opportunity at free college and guaranteed work.”

Young people across the U.S. were not just affected in terms of financial aid and scholarships. As a result of the shutdown, many families like junior Carson McKean’s, whose father is an IT specialist at the National Parks Service building, were forced to live without a paycheck for the duration of the shutdown.

“He stopped working. You can’t really do anything without being paid, but sometimes he got on his laptop and answered calls,” McKean said. “We cut back and stopped spending as much, but everything ended up being fine.”

While McKean expressed how he and his family were financially fortunate in this situation, other furloughed federal workers weren’t as lucky. Many of these workers took to social media to express their dissatisfactions. Among them were firefighters, forecasters, and a woman from the Department of Interior who claims she had to ration her insulin because she couldn’t afford her $300 copay.

This government shutdown is costing me an opportunity at free college and guaranteed work.”

— Will Talbot

In total, the shutdown lasted 35 days, the longest recorded shutdown in U.S. history. While the shutdown has officially concluded, its effects are far from over. While no one can be certain about the long-term repercussions, one thing is for certain: the impacts of this shutdown have extended past Capitol Hill, past a wall, past all politics, and straight to the country’s next generation.