The government shutdown is nearing its fourth week, and many federal workers in Tennessee say they’re starting to feel strapped for cash. And on top of that, it might be hard for them to find new sources of income.
Essential employees — like TSA security agents and weather forecasters — have to report for work, even though they aren’t getting paid.
Chris Grimes falls into that category. He’s an air traffic controller in Nashville and a representative for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. He says he has some savings to rely on. But many of his coworkers don’t, and it’s hard for them to get part-time jobs.
"When you say, 'Well, why don’t you go out and get a second job?' … Well, I have to be there six days a week for 10-hour shifts. Where am I gonna go to get a second job and work for a day?"
Even many workers who don't have to report to work say their options are limited. That’s the case for Charlayne Gunter, a revenue agent for the IRS in the state.
"We can’t do anything related to local state or federal taxes," she said. "We’ve got accountants, collection officers. So we’re prevented from doing those things we know best."
These are a few of about 25,000 federal workers in the state who are directly impacted by the federal shutdown. Prentice Doaks, the president of the local chapter of the National Treasury Employees Union, says over the last couple of weeks he’s been getting lots of phone calls from workers throughout his union who are expressing their distress.
"I had a young lady call me yesterday, saying she doesn’t have any money, can’t afford to even put gas in her car to drive out to our call site," Doaks said. "So what can she do? She applied for unemployment."
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development says that, as of Jan. 19, about 900 federal employees had done just that.