There are more than enough adjectives to describe how federal employee Natasha Rozier feels about the government shutdown that began Oct. 1. Betrayed, saddened and frustrated are just the start.
Rozier, 31, has worked as an IT specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau's geography division for a little more than seven years. Her husband, William, works in construction, but she is the primary breadwinner in the family and her job also provides the benefits, such as health insurance.
"Me being out of work is definitely a financial strain on us and a lot of stress on him to carry the weight of all of the bills," Rozier told BET.com at a Capitol Hill rally attended by several members of the federal government workers' union AFGE.
When the government shut down Tuesday morning, the Roziers, who were already living paycheck to paycheck to maintain their Washington, D.C., home and care for their 5-year-old daughter, began to immediately cut back.
"We really have to watch our resources and spend money only on things we absolutely need. We are driving just one car, instead of two to preserve our gas," she said. "And we're trying to figure out a contingency plan, such as borrowing from our 401K and paying ourselves back later."
The family has been living temporarily with Rozier's mother while some small renovations were being done on their home. With the future uncertain, they decided to "cease and desist" the project, she explained.
Disappointment is becoming too familiar in their household. Daughter Nailah was looking forward to being a Girl Scout and taking ballet and tap lessons, but those activities have been put on hold. She also cannot go to after-care or favorites like Chuck E. Cheese and the movies.
"She's disappointed. I explained that mommy and daddy aren't able to provide those things now, but she doesn't really understand," Rozier said.
When the government shut down during the Clinton administration, federal employees were paid retroactively for the weeks they were furloughed. Rozier and others are extremely worried that congressional lawmakers will not pass a bill to provide retroactive pay this time around.
"If we don't get retro, we're going to be behind on everything and trying to catch up is even harder," she said, adding that while the cost of living has gone up, federal paychecks have not due to a salary freeze that has lasted three years.
Rozier also is angry that lawmakers, several of whom are millionaires, are getting paid during the shutdown while the people who need an income most are not.
"I am extremely angry," she said. "They're getting paid so they're not feeling the effects of this. The biggest victims are the federal government employees. They need to know what it feels like to not get a paycheck, not be able to put food on the table or pay their bills even though they make three times as much as the average employee. They need to know what it feels like to not get paid."
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(Photo: Jorae Williams AFGE)
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