Thousands of Americans who have agreed to live on poverty-level stipends to serve the nation's poorest are making an even bigger sacrifice. Thanks to the government shutdown, they may have to live on no wages at all for a while.
AmeriCorps VISTA members, who spend a year living in poor areas and serving programs that aim to help people in poverty, have been told to continue working during the shutdown but not to expect to get their stipends until the government reopens, according to a document posted on the organization's website. Although they will eventually get paid, the lag in receiving money could present challenges to people already trying to get by on very little money.
(Read more: How the shutdown is hurting Main Street America)
Marah Holland, 24, is among those wondering when her next check will come. She receives a stipend of $397 every two weeks, plus food stamps, for her work on public health issues in Oregon.
Holland, who recently graduated from the University of Rhode Island and is currently living in Beaverton, Ore., knew it would be tough to cover rent, utilities, gas and other costs with a budget of just a couple of hundred dollars a week.
She said she saved up some money in the months leading up to beginning service in April. Now, she figures she'll have to dip into that, or accept a $500 loan from the state health authority she is working with, to cover rent and other costs. The program doesn't allow people to take on second jobs, she said.
Holland, who hopes to pursue a master's in public health after completing the program, said she's enjoying her year in service and wouldn't consider leaving the program. But she's frustrated about not getting paid, especially since members of Congress are receiving their paychecks during the shutdown, now into its second week.