Lakewood: Shutdown puts lives in limbo

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When Ann Humphrey received news recently that she was being furloughed as part of the federal government shutdown, she immediately drove to Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s Jefferson County office and sought answers, while wiping away tears.

“I was very upset,” the Lakewood woman said. “I just wanted to vent and let them know how upset I was. I didn’t know if I was going to be getting paid or how long this would last. It was really scary.”

Humphrey has been a government employee for the last 25 years, most recently as a management assistant with the Department of Treasury. She’ll probably end up getting back pay, but in the meantime she has no income and plenty of bills to deal with.

“I called Wells Fargo to see if they would defer my house payment and they wouldn’t do it for me,” she said. “It’s really stressful. It really is the fear of the unknown.”

Humphrey wasn’t the only one facing uncertainty amid the shutdown.

Mickey Devitt of Denver is an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board. Her position was furloughed and she, like Humphrey, has been faced with uncertainty about what the immediate future will bring.

“I have two young kids and I’m the breadwinner for my family,” she said. “I have half a paycheck to last me until (Oct. 10) and I don’t what’s going to happen after that.”

While Humphrey and Devitt triage their bills and forgo unnecessary expenses, politicians point fingers.

“We’ve done everything we can to keep this government funded and we are doing everything we can now, knowing that we don’t have a Senate or a president who wants to have a conversation with us,” said Republican Congressman Cory Gardner.

“We now have a shutdown of the government, there’s now this overarching threat of the United States defaulting on its full faith and credit and not paying the bills,” said Congressman Ed Perlmutter, a Democrat. “And these guys (Republicans) have been holding the economy and working people hostage.

“It really is unforgivable.”

Trading accusations

On Oct. 10 and 11, some movement was made toward a shutdown resolution, as House Republicans — stinging from national poll numbers that show they are receiving the lion’s share of the blame for the shutdown — began submitting short-term proposals to raise the federal debt ceiling and reopen the government.

But ending the shutdown is only one step in the process. Congress still must deal with long-term budget and debt-ceiling issues, something it hasn’t been very good at in recent years.

“I hope my Republican colleagues come to their senses, because this is not the way to run anything — a government, a family, a business, anything,” Perlmutter said of Congress’ knack for creating self-imposed crises. “It’s drama, after drama, after drama.”

Perlmutter also blasted House Republicans for their reasons behind shutting down the government in the first place, what he sees as an obsession with either crippling or dismantling the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Obamacare is up and running, in spite of Republican efforts to halt it.

“These guys continue to want to do something about that, but they’ve lost every time,” he said.

But Gardner insists that Republican efforts to derail President Obama’s biggest legislative achievement have to do with ending “unfair” individual mandates on health insurance coverage and getting rid of burdensome taxes placed on medical devices.

“Just because a law is the law doesn’t mean the American public should be burdened with it, if it has components in that are bad,” Gardner said.

Gardner also said he pays no attention to polls that show the public has grown tired Congress as a whole, but has soured on Republicans, in particular.

“I don’t think anybody ever tried to think that Congress was a popularity contest,” Gardner said. “Whether or not Congress is seen in a good light or a bad light (has to do with) whether we’re doing the right thing for our nation.”

While the political back-and-forth continues, lives continue to be affected.

“Here I am, trying to do my job and the government lays me off,” Humphrey said. “I don’t want to sound political, but it’s really getting old. I just want to go back to work and do my job.”

Devitt had to put an important dental procedure on hold because she didn’t know if she was going to have the money to pay for it. But money is only part of her frustration; there’s also her belief that the public doesn’t fully appreciate the “value” of government employees.

But while Devitt believes that “federal servants are often treated like a piñata,” she has no intention of leaving her position for a private-sector job.

“What I do is important, whether people see it or not,” she said.