Triangle woman shares story, struggle of supporting family during shutdown

January 11, 2019
As talks drag on, more than 800.000 federal workers across the country have not been paid since December 22, 2018, that includes hundreds in the Triangle.

As the talks drag on, more than 800,000 federal workers across the country have not been paid since Dec. 22, including hundreds in the Triangle.

Jen Richmond-Bryant, 45, is a mom of a 16-year-old and is the primary breadwinner in her house.

“My husband has multiple sclerosis, so he hasn’t been able to work for a couple of years,” she said.

Richmond-Bryant is a scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency and researches the effects of air pollution on the human body. She has not been to work in nearly two weeks.

“It’s kind of boring, to be honest, when you’re sitting around and supposed to be doing something meaningful and you’re not able to,” she said.

“My house is as clean as it has been in 10 years or so.”

As a furloughed federal employee, she’s not getting a paycheck. Richmond-Bryant trusts she’ll receive back pay when it’s all over, but bills don’t allow grace periods for government gridlock.

“Things like paying the mortgage, or making or covering our bills, it’s going to be like a real struggle for next month,” Richmond-Bryant said.

The shutdown began in the waning days of 2018 as President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders clashed over Trump’s demands for $5.7 billion for wall construction along the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I find it frustrating,” she said. “I don’t think this is a crisis that has to put a stop to the government,” Richmond-Bryant said.

Data from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management show more than 44,000 civilian federal employees worked in North Carolina as of June 2018, the most recent data available. The state ranks 12th in the county among federal employment, just behind Ohio.

“I do think there’s a perception that federal employees are all just sitting at our desks pushing paper around. But, in reality, the work we do affects the American public,” she said.

Richmond-Bryant also works part-time at North Carolina State University, but that job does not cover the bills.

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