Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Post

Government shutdown affects Athens programs and local residents

Correction appended. 

Saturday marked day 22 of a new record for a partial government shutdown, passing the second longest shutdown that lasted 21 days under the Clinton administration.

The shutdown is driven by President Donald Trump’s demand for a $5.7 billion wall to be built along the Southern border of the U.S., according to NPR. Federal workers and programs all over the country, and even those in Athens County, are affected.

The Survivor Advocacy Outreach Program, or SAOP, is funded by the Victims of Crime Act as well a state fund called the Rape Crisis Fund, Jennifer Seifert, the executive director for the program, said.

“So, we are funded through that program, and we specialize, of course, in advocacy services for relational violence,” she said. “Since the shutdown, we are not at the place where we are having to close services or there's not a disruption in services yet, but in the next month or two if it does last, we will have to start making those decisions.”

Seifert said similar agencies and nonprofit organizations have a mix of different funding streams, and the shutdown comes at a time where SAOP is less vulnerable to its effects. 

As the shutdown continues to occur, Seifert said while the program is dealing with crises every single day, she and her colleagues have to be careful about what they allow to add to the already high trauma work environment they have. 

“Our kind of philosophy right now is we are just going to not act like anything is happening right, like ignore it, but it's kind of like we will make those decisions when we have to,” she said. “Until then, we can't let it impact our clients and that's kind of where we are at right now. It's on our minds, but it's also really out of our control as an agency.”

When calling the Wayne National Forest, there isn’t a greeting but instead, a pre-recorded message stating voicemails and emails will not be answered “due to the lapse in federal government funding.”

Nicole Rhoads, a resource assistant and public affairs intern for the Wayne National Forest, is one of the many affected by the shutdown.

While Friday was the first time many didn’t see a paycheck since the shutdown began, Rhoads received a stipend for the federal holidays.

“I got paid for the federal holidays today, so Dec. 24, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, which was a total of 24 hours, so I saw 24 hours worth of pay,” Rhoads said. 

A normal paycheck is worth 40 hours of work, she said. Luckily, she has had the help of her family to pay rent and other expenses while the shutdown continues.

“But if this goes on any longer than February, I'm going to be in some hot water,” she said. 

While the forest called Rhoads into work last week, she still won’t be paid until the government opens back up.

“I'm trying to stay as optimistic as possible. I'm really hoping that it will open up within a week or so and that everything will just sort of go back and start working as normal again,” she said. “But like I said, if this goes on any longer than February, my supervisors know that I may be looking for another job. But, I really don't want to do that.”

Rhoads said it is really difficult going into work without pay. 

“It makes morale really low. It is really hard to go into work and do this job knowing that I'm not going to see a paycheck until whenever the government decides to reopen,” she said. 

As a recent Ohio University graduate, Rhoads is also faced with impending student loans.

“So, my grace period just ended for like my non-payments. So I had to start paying Dec. 22, as soon as the government shutdown, and I was in the middle of refinancing some loans,” she said. “So, it kind of made things a little uncertain.”

Other students at OU, whether undergraduate or graduate, may rely on federal grants or financial aid to help pay for their schooling. OU President Duane Nellis worries about how the continuance of the shutdown may affect those aspects.

“There’s some bridging needed where we’ve had to, with some of the grant activities depending on when the transfer of funds occurs, but also so far the student financial aid transfers as I understand, it continues to be made. But, I do worry about that as that continues to occur,” he said.

Many grants that already exist may become an issue, Nellis said.

“The transfer of those dollars to the university, there may be delays in getting those dollars,” he said. “I think they’ll eventually come once the government reopens, but right now some of those grants, we’re having to backfill because we don’t want people like a graduate assistant who may be working on a research grant to not be paid.”

There are services that workers affected by the shutdown can use for assistance of different needs.

The Hocking Athens Perry Community Action, or HAPCAP, is an organization that offers services in child development, employment training, energy assistance, housing, community development, transportation, and food and nutrition, according to Claire Gysegem, the public relations manager for HAPCAP.

To reach out to those who may be in need, the organization has sent out a note to social media and local press, urging workers and others to seek help if needed.

Since the shutdown began, Gysegem said it is too early to tell whether there has been an increase in usage of HAPCAP’s services.

“Most furloughed employees missed their first paycheck last Friday and SNAP/WIC funds are expected through February,” she said in an email. “If SNAP lapses, then the Southeast Ohio Foodbank will certainly expect an increase in numbers for February. “


Correction: A previous version of this report incorrectly spelled Rhoads’ name. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information. 

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2016-2022 The Post, Athens OH