US & Canada

US stand-off: 'Endangering our personal and national livelihoods'

US Capitol building
Image caption The US Capitol building, the backdrop to the row leading to the government shutdown

The US government has closed non-essential operations after the two houses of Congress failed to agree a new budget.

The partial shutdown began earlier this week after Republicans refused to approve a budget, saying they would only do so if funding for President Barack Obama's healthcare reforms was delayed.

The impact of the shutdown is being felt across the country.

Thousands of federal employees are on enforced leave without pay, while others are working as "essential" staff, but are currently not being paid.

Many more across the country are encountering difficulties because of the closure.

These are the experiences of some of the individuals whose lives and livelihoods are being affected.

'Lucy', Massachusetts

I´m an essential federal employee, so I am ordered to show up for work with no pay or I will be considered Awol (absent without leave).

As "excepted service" federal employees, we must report to work with no pay (it will be reimbursed at a later date...whoopee).

We are not allowed to collect unemployment or get another job.

Image caption A federal employee protests outside the Capitol in Washington DC

Several of my fellow co-workers will be taking out an emergency loan from their retirements to cover utilities.

I myself will, unfortunately, use what savings I have, as well as credit to get by.

My co-workers are good professional people but there is a noticeable level of stress, frustration, and depression on the rise.

I believe the tea party Republicans who are issuing this ransom note to our country, the one that states that the Affordable Care Act must be delayed are terrified that, if there is no delay to the start of the so-called ObamaCare, people will actually catch on to what a good and positive thing it will be, particularly for those in need.

I´m disgusted that these few elected officials would willingly damn the country and the majority of its citizens, as well as the hardworking federal employees who serve it, to use blackmail to eliminate something as necessary as the Affordable Care Act.

Patriots, they're not. Bullies? Most definitely.

They should feel shame but that would require a conscience and compassion and I feel that is sadly lacking from these tea party characters.

'Karen', Memphis, Tennessee

I am a British national who now lives in the US with my husband who is a US citizen.

He is a member of the Army National Guard and an employee of the Department of Homeland Security.

He has always served his country, and has been deployed to Iraq.

He is considered an essential employee so he is still going to work at his daily job - but he will not be paid until the shutdown is over and it might take a while.

His National Guard has been cancelled due to the shutdown, which means we won't receive pay for that this month either.

I had heart surgery six months ago and just found out that I'm pregnant (a surprise obviously). As a result my son is too much for me so I cannot care for him all day by myself and he has to go to day care.

We cannot take him out of day care because my husband still has to work, but we also don't know when he'll be paid.

We rely on his pay cheque and I don't know what we are going to do.

To be honest, as much as I'd like to focus on the "bigger issues" all I can think of is how we are going to feed ourselves and our two-year-old son.

I have taken a temporary position in an office. It's not something we really wanted me to do because of my medical issues, but it is necessary.

We have rent to pay, plus student loans and numerous other bills. I'm hoping that this all ends soon.

If this goes on too long we're going to be in trouble.

Jesse Weaver, Long Beach, Mississippi

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Media captionGovernment worker Jesse Weaver from Long Beach Mississippi describes the impact of the shutdown on her and her family.

Elizabeth Coon, Newport News, Virginia

My dad is an "unnecessary" government employee who is being indefinitely furloughed without pay during the shutdown.

He is currently supporting a wife (my mom) and four kids, two of whom are at university.

Image caption People have been turned away from the Minneapolis Social Security Administration Card Center

He just resumed a normal working schedule after the 20% reduction in pay for the furlough this summer.

The assumption is that the shutdown will end soon, as most shutdowns in the past (with the exception of the Clinton shutdown in '95-'96) lasted three days or less.

If that is the case and my dad resumes work on Monday, his next pay cheque will be reduced by about 40%, the loss of which we can absorb through savings and strategic credit card use.

If the shutdown lasts through the entire next pay period (about a two-week length of time), we will be unable to make the mortgage payment on our house or the car payment, meaning we will be relying on the mercy of the bank to allow us to skip those payments.

While we have a savings account, because of the furlough and 20% pay reduction this summer and because our family internationally adopted my youngest brother a year ago, it is much lower than we would like and will be used up within a month or two.

If the shutdown lasts even another two weeks, my family will need to consider taking out a personal loan to finance necessaries like groceries and utilities.

We have one other source of income, my dad's pension from the USAF (he is a veteran of the Iraqi war), but that will also be in jeopardy in a few weeks when the debate over the debt ceiling comes to a head. So, obviously, we are quite anxious that this be resolved quickly.

My parents and I sympathise with different political parties, but we all agree: this stand-off in Congress is ridiculous, and it is endangering our personal and national livelihoods.

Monica Gonzalez, Davie, Florida

Image caption Monica Gonzalez is worried about being able to feed her family

It is outrageous, the government really needs to make some changes so this doesn't happen again.

I am a mother of two, we are low income and we depend on the WIC federal programme that gives healthcare and nutrition for women and small children.

That is how we are able to have milk, cereal, bread, baby formula and eggs among other things.

With the shutdown we are no longer receiving this help.

My husband has a full-time job but it's not enough.

My son is in the federal Head Start programme for his education.

Until now, he is allowed to go to school but once the money runs out none of his classmates will be going to school until the government decides to do their job.

As for my daughter and I, we depend on WIC to buy formula, vegetables, milk etc.

If the government decides to keep playing ping-pong, if John Boehner (House speaker) does not come around and let Congress do what they are supposed to do - pass a budget and pay Americans - we won't be able to collect these benefits on time.

It is frustrating, all we can think about is, how long will our food last? And what will we do once it goes?

It's not fair to anybody, not just me, there are kids that are being affected, seniors, people could die because of this negligence.

Tracey Stalcup, Murphy, North Carolina

Image caption Tracey Stalcup and her husband's home loan has been delayed

My husband and I are just a few weeks away from closing on our first home.

As our loan was through a government-supported agency, the field workers who review and improve the loans will not be working during the shutdown.

This does put quite a dent in our plans as there are several things that need to be done to the house before winter (e.g. propane heater installation, mend a window that will not shut properly, just to name a few).

But now we are just at a standstill.

Luckily, we are renting from a friend of the family who understands our situation.

If the shutdown persists through October, we will have to rent for another month - and contend with tripping over boxes of our packed belongings.

Steven Crump, Basel, Switzerland

I work for a large multinational chemical company and am currently managing the implementation of a chemical manufacturing process in the US.

For this we need an imported raw material. This material is held up indefinitely, waiting FDA clearance due to the shutdown.

I suppose that this is just one example of the negative economic impact of this idiocy.

I'm travelling to the US this weekend as part of this project.

The main purpose of this trip is to run some production tests which require this material but I cannot even speak with someone at the FDA to get a clearance status.

The FDA website has a message stating that agency operations will be limited to emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property or criminal law enforcement work.

Our work, while important to us, satisfies none of these conditions. Consequently, we cannot run the full range of tests and I will have to return later to complete this.

We will find a solution to this, we always do, but why is this necessary?

The US is a very attractive location to place this type of manufacturing. Energy costs are low and getting lower and hiring rules are among the most flexible in the world.

This type of thing, however, makes you wonder.

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