Color photo of an empty Pennsylvania Avenue between the White House and Lafayette Square
Reginald Black

The federal government has been shut down for almost five weeks now, and people who are not even federal workers can feel the effect, including me. This trickles down to way way more than just the 800,000 federal workers who are affected. Of federal workers in the DMV region, 15 percent live in the District of Columbia, and many people depend on them to survive. When they don’t get paid, we don’t get paid. 

As a newspaper vendor, this is getting really hard to watch. Sales are down. I haven’t seen many of my regular customers in the last few weeks. Many are federal workers. I am seeing fewer people around in general.  

Consequently, I am running late on my bills, to the point where I have been forced to put in more hours selling my papers and to do some small gigs like bartending and performing, just to add up for the lost income. I still don’t see any end in sight. 

It’s not just me. The babysitters that I see regularly where I sell my papers no longer have any kiddos with them, since some parents are now able to be home. Most dog walkers that used to buy my papers on their way to the S Street Dog Park aren’t working either. I also sell papers near a grocery store and a fast food restaurant; fewer people are patronizing those businesses, and the employees tell me their hours have been cut. The list can go on and on, all the way to the vulnerable people on our streets who rely on donations. They have been pushed to the wall. 

Our federal workers bring so much to the table for this city and the people who live and work here. And most of them support their own families or other relatives. 

This stupid theatrical shutdown is affecting so many people, all due to the selfishness of one person who by any means necessary wants to fulfill a campaign promise he didn’t even take seriously. This debate could have been had without forcing someone to work without a paycheck. It’s a different scenario to work for free and report zero income on taxes while your businesses are bringing in loads of money. 

There are so many families, people with disabilities, and homeless individuals that rely on federal funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. But thousands of recipients around the country are only guaranteed pay through February 

At least Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are considered mandatory spending and will not run out during the shutdown. 

But millions more poor, homeless and marginalized people that rely on government benefits will feel the real impact. For example, if they don’t receive their food stamps from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on time they will struggle even more to put food on their table. 

 

Colly Dennis is an artist and vendor for Street Sense Media.