Twenty days into President Donald Trump’s government shutdown, many federal employees are unable to mask their desperation as they miss paychecks and watch their rent, utility, and grocery bills pile up—and hundreds have turned to the public for help.
“I’m never one to beg or ask for help but this is my only option,” wrote Nila Cleckley on a GoFundMe page she set up, explaining that she is an essential government employee who is “currently working 40 hours per week and making $0 per hour due to the government shutdown.”
“Federal employees are begging for cash to keep their lights on while they work essential jobs without pay. Meanwhile, the page to fund the wall is nearing $20,000,000 in donations.” —Julia Carrie Wong, the GuardianCleckley is one of about 1,000 public employees who have turned to the website to raise money in order to pay for their housing and other necessities while Trump refuses to relent in his demand that Congress free up $5.7 billion to pay for a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, a key component of his xenophobic, fear-mongering anti-immigration agenda.
A number of families who set up fundraisers noted that they live paycheck to paycheck, as 78 percent of Americans do, and that they have already started to feel the financial effects of the shutdown. The federal employees’ use of GoFundMe mirrors one of the most common uses of the site—by Americans who need to raise money to pay their medical bills in the nation’s for-profit system.
As Trump headed to the border on Thursday to potentially declare a national emergency in order to build the wall—and hundreds of federal employees rallied in Washington, D.C. to demand an end to the shutdown—the fundraisers had collectively gathered about $100,000.
At the Guardian, Julia Carrie Wong noted that while the workers are asking for donations ranging from just $100 to cover groceries to a few thousand dollars to ensure that their “children are not directly impacted” while they dip into their savings, one right-wing Trump supporter in recent weeks has raised nearly $20 million from more than 330,000 donors intent on funding the president’s wall themselves.
The two uses of the site offer a “troubling diptych of societal dysfunction,” Wong wrote, “all contained within a site that serves as a catalog of catastrophe—even when the government is functioning.”
On Twitter, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) helped to elevate the voices of the 420,000 employees who have been working without pay and the 380,000 who have been furloughed for nearly three weeks.
“President Trump is taking paychecks away from thousands of American workers and throwing families into crisis every day he refuses to reopen the government,” said Brown. “The president must end his shutdown and put Americans back to work.”