MOUNT VERNON — As the partial government shutdown wears on into Day 29, locals are starting to feel the effects.
Bonnie Cline, a resident of Gambier, said she is lucky because she has only lost about a third of her income as a result of the shutdown. Cline serves as a “permanent, part time intermittent” employee of the U.S. Census Bureau as a field rep for the American Communities Survey. Typically, Cline explained, she will work about 25 hours a month with the American Communities Survey in addition to the two other jobs she holds.
Even if the government shutdown ends before February, Cline won’t receive new assignments until Feb. 1. She is holding off on looking for other employment as long as possible, she said, because she is hoping to go back to work soon, but if the shut down continues past Feb. 1, she’ll have to rethink her plan.
In December, for a multitude of reasons, including the holidays, Cline said she fell behind on bills. Now missing a third of the expected income from January, which she would usually use to catch up, Cline is having to hold off on things such as needed dental work and buying new, safe tires for her car. In a bit of irony, Cline realized her subscription to the News expired recently and said she will have to hold off on renewing her subscription until she can pay off the pressing bills, such as utilities.
Cline has applied for home energy assistance through Kno-Ho-Co-Ashland Community Action Commission. She said she is “insecure” about the future, because of her reliance on assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and from Metropolitan housing, if the shutdown continues, though she noted that right now she is playing it by ear because of how many “wildcards” are in play with the shutdown.
“I’m working poor with two jobs, and I’m insecure because there are so many wildcards,” Cline explained. “I am blessed to live in a community with friends and family who have offered their support, and I want to reiterate that I’m not in any danger of losing my home or anything like that. I hope someone in the government will remember that it’s not about politics. These are real people with real anxiety about their real lives. It transcends politics.”
Andrew Bird, a newly hired pastor of youth ministry and worship at Lakeholm Church of the Nazarene, has seen first hand how the shutdown has affected home buyers. He, his wife, and two children, were getting set to close on a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) home loan on Jan. 11 to move into a home on Martinsburg Road, but with the partial shutdown, there is no one at the USDA available to sign closing paperwork for them.
USDA home loans come with the advantage of most closing costs and down payments being part of the overall loan, Bird said. A home buyer must first meet income and family guidelines to be eligible for the loan. He has signed up for a 30-year mortgage.
The realty company has given the Birds an extension through Feb. 18, but if the shutdown continues beyond that date, the family has no guarantee that they will be granted a second extension by the seller, who could opt to make the sale to a more readily available buyer.
“It’s the perfect place for us,” Bird, 46, said of the home. “Now it’s just a matter of getting into it.”
Until that happens, he added, a family from Lakeholm Church of the Nazarene that was selling another home has allowed the Bird family to move in until their situation is settled. The family is moving to Mount Vernon from Parkersburg, West Virginia, where Bird worked as pastor of youth and ministry for Broadway Church of the Nazarene for more than three years.
Joan Slonczewski, a professor at Kenyon College, said that the shutdown has effected the grant that the National Science Foundation (NSF) pays to Kenyon for bacteria research that employs seven of Slonczewski’s students part time and employs one community member full-time. The research the students and community member are doing is aimed at discovering how to prevent bacteria from resisting antibiotics, Slonczewski explained, and Kenyon pays the students and full-time employee and for the research materials with the expectation that the NSF will reimburse the college after each quarter.
Currently the NSF is affected by the shutdown and is not taking reimbursement requests for the last quarter, Slonczewski said, which the college has already paid for. The uncertainty the shutdown has created for this and various other grants that the college receives from NSF and the way it will affect the next quarter of research is a problem, Slonczewski said.
Aubrey Brown, a 2004 graduate of Fredericktown High School who is a park guide at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, said that she is currently furloughed, meaning she is not working and not getting paid. She moved to New Mexico because she believes in the mission of the park to preserve the natural wonders and promote the history of the area.
“I threw down all I knew (at home) to move out here for this opportunity,” Brown said. “I came here for the job and I want to work.”
Brown has been a permanent employee since January 2018, but also served as a temporary park guide from April until September of 2017. Her first day on the job in January 2018 was also affected by government shutdown, but this is the first time a shutdown has affected her budget and caused the need to cut back on what Brown said was already a budget limited to necessities.
“I’m getting good at managing my budget,” Brown said. “I have had to seriously look to see what I can cut and minimize.”
Brown said she is set through January and into February because of her budgeting. Her cat has had recent medical issues and Brown has been looking at how much she can afford to pay for treatment and for other options for treatment that can be done from home. Should the shutdown continue past the first few weeks of February, Brown said her options are slim. She is concerned about making rent, utilities and car payments, and she has been working closely with creditors in the case that she needs to have her student loan payments deferred while the shutdown continues.
In the meantime, Brown said she has had a lot of moral support from her co-workers and family. Brown has been brushing up on her French and American sign language, spending quality time with her cats and has also had the opportunity to get together with her co-workers for game and movie nights, as well as hikes and bike rides, she said.
“It’s a really supportive group and a good community,” Brown said of her co-workers. “We’ve been keeping moral up.”
News staff reporter Larry Di Giovanni contributed to this article.