Federal employees and contractors have been forced to take creative measures to make ends meet as the government shutdown enters its 26th day with no clear end in sight.
Employees have turned to side jobs, food donations and online fundraising campaigns since the shutdown began Dec. 21. Some 800,000 federal employees are either furloughed or working without pay.
There are approximately 1,800 campaigns to raise money for those affected by the stalemate on the fundraising website GoFundMe, according to GoFundMe spokesperson Katherine Cichy. The campaigns have raised over $400,000 total, Cichy said.
The campaigns ask for money to pay rent, buy food, make student loan payments and repair cars. People affected by the shutdown share stories of upcoming births and weddings, marred by financial uncertainty.
Scott Jones is a biologist with the United States Geological Survey and missed his first paycheck Jan. 14. He and his wife Kelly started a GoFundMe campaign, which has raised $9,000, the same day he missed the check.
The couple's third child is due in mid-February, and their savings are drained from a cross-country move to take the job with the USGS. After being in graduate school with two young children, Jones said he understands financial stress. But this timing is particularly bad.
"We have a new baby coming next month," he said. "When you have a new baby, that's a different ball game. I can go without, a baby can't."
The Joneses' story is one of hundreds posted to the GoFundMe website.
Another family in Louisiana asked for $5,000 to pay bills, including a mortgage, and other expenses before the birth of their child in March. Taylor Gautreaux, who wrote the GoFundMe page, is a government contractor using paid time off to get through the shutdown.
As a government contractor, my company allowed us to use borrowed PTO to help during the first couple of weeks during the shutdown, however I will soon have exhausted all allotted PTO for the next year. This really sucks because I will have a newborn baby who will need me to take him to doctors appointments and care for him if he becomes ill, but I will no long have the PTO to do that.
The pleas come from federal employees and contractors from a variety of departments. Members of the military, librarians, scientists and TSA officers are asking for help.
Nila Cleckley writes that she is working 40 hours a week without a paycheck, and bills are starting to pile up. She has two sons and no family or friends to help.
I really don't know how I'm gonna put gas in my car to make it back in forth and to work. I am already living pay check to pay check.I just don't know how I'm Gonna make it. I'm never one to beg or ask for help but this is my only option.
Brandon Walker says he's worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for eight years, and needs help paying student loans and rent.
Since I have been furloughed, I have been volunteering at the Capital Area Food Bank as well as the DC Central Kitchen. I hate to appear as though I am begging, however this is a emergency.
Cichy said GoFundMe has a team to verify the identity of campaign organizers and ensure contributions go to people affected by the shutdown.
Donations are backed by the GoFundMe Guarantee, which ensures that donors' money is going where they think it is, Cichy said. If donated funds are misused, the money will be refunded.