Students affected by shutdown say ‘We want to get our pay’

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Photo Credit: Bixie Mathieu | Daily Texan Staff

After 35 days of uncertainty and two missed paychecks, the temporarily reopened government allowed journalism freshman Anissa Reyes’ family to breathe a sigh of relief.

Reyes’ father works in management for the federal district court. During the shutdown he was one of the lucky few whose district was able to pay their employees. The money was set to run out on Friday, the same day the government reopened.

Although the family didn’t miss a paycheck, the effect it had on the household was visible. Reyes said her dad was focused on forming contingency plans to pay for her housing bill after she received a notification saying she would soon be dropped from her classes because of a financial bar.

“I got the notification and I was calling my dad (saying), ‘I don’t know what to do. I’m scared,’” Reyes said. “I didn’t know who to contact. I’m a freshman.”

Preparing for the worst, Reyes considered asking family for money or reaching out to financial aid. Kendall Slagle, Communications Coordinator for Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, said each student’s situation is evaluated on a case-by-case basis in order to provide them with support.

“We are focused on responding quickly to the individual needs of affected students,” Slagle said, “(We) will do all we can to assist students with issues stemming directly from the partial federal government shutdown.”

Biochemistry sophomore Prajwal Gowda’s father also works for the government as a research scientist in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He was placed on furlough when the shutdown began.

Like Reyes’ family, Gowda said cutting back and budgeting more carefully was a main focus over the holiday break, and although payment has resumed, they will continue to be weary. Additionally, the family decided to pay this semester’s tuition in installments, rather than in full.

“They’re just trying to make sure each payment is made deliberately,” Gowda said. “We didn’t really know how to prepare because we didn’t know how long it was going to be.”

With his mother continuing to work, Gowda considers his family more fortunate than some and has used his experience to make sure as many people knew about what his family and others were going through.

“(This experience) gave my words more meaning,” Gowda said. “I can actually speak to the effect it has. We’re one of the families, and this is what we want. We want to get our pay.”

It’s easy to be apathetic about the government’s actions when they are someone else’s problem. “(My dad and his colleagues) just wanted to go back to work and get their money,” Gowda said, and they prioritized that over the political
outcome of the situation.

“That’s the first priority as a politician: making sure all your constituents are in a better position than they were before you got there, whatever form that be,” Gowda said. “That’s what they should strive for.”

Reyes said her family shared this sentiment and her perspective was changed because of her involvement. While she said it’s hard to take sides, the main priority is ending their struggling and paying the employees.

“I feel like (both sides are being) childish,” Reyes said, “There are so many things I want, but I’m not gonna shut something down or make someone’s life miserable just to get that.”