CategoryObservations

What Day 20 of the Government Shutdown Looks Like

Overall, about 420,000 government employees are working under the promise they will be paid retroactively, with nearly another 350,000 on furlough at home. This does not account for the hundreds of thousands of contractors who will never see this missing pay. This includes the janitorial, food service, information technology and security professionals. Most make at or near minimum wage and cannot afford to miss pay checks. As the shutdown lasts into its third week, these people are missing pay checks and paying the price of a prolonged fight in the government.

Over a million people are being hurt directly by the shutdown which doesn’t even account for local restaurants and convenience stores who benefit from the foot traffic and nutrtional needs of those workers. Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers are seeing a sharp decline in business due to the lack of people moving around the city either to commute or to take meetings throughout town.

The public transit system is taking a huge hit with nearly 40% of its daily commuters government employees and contractors.

It’s also outrageously expensive. The U.S. economy will have lost $3.6 billion by Friday, according to S&P. In 2013, the government shutdown cost $24 billion after just 16 days. As we roll into Days 21 and 22.

Here is a snapshot of what’s not getting done and a reminder that anyone still working is not getting paid to work. How long would you do your job without a pay check?

See How the Effects of the Government Shutdown Are Piling Up

What’s Already Happened

Dec 22nd:

  • The Food and Drug Administration stops its routine inspections and many research activities and stops accepting approval applications for new drugs.

Dec 26:

  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency issues a “stop work” order to all contractors, telling them they will not be paid.

Dec 28:

  • The Department of Agriculture closes its Farm Service Agency county offices and later extends a deadline for farmers to apply for subsidies to offset the effects of Chinese tariffs.

Dec 30:

  • The National Park Service suspends services like trash collection and road maintenance, and plans to close certain parks. The parks are losing about $400,000 a day in fees.

January:

  • The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau halts approvals for new beer labels, delaying the release of some craft brewers’ products.
  • The Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo close their doors.
  • The National Gallery of Art closes to the public.

Jan 4:

  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development sends letters to 1,500 landlords asking them not to evict residents in housing assistance programs — including those with Section 8 vouchers — for which funding has lapsed.

Jan 11:

  • Many federal workers miss their first paycheck. While some earn six-figure salaries, an average employee’s weekly take-home pay is about $500, according to a labor union for government employees.

Upcoming Deadlines

Jan 12:

  • Miami International Airport closes a terminal as security screeners have been calling in sick at twice the airport’s normal rate.

Jan 18:

  • Federal district courts run out of funds. Civil cases may be suspended or postponed, but criminal cases and other essential work will proceed.

Jan 25

  • Federal workers miss another paycheck.

Congress approves back pay — eventually — for furloughed federal employees

The House on Friday approved the measure on a 411-to-7 vote, following Senate passage Thursday under a shortcut procedure called unanimous consent, in which a bill is deemed passed if no member objects.

The measure would apply only to furloughed federal employees. Separate legislation is pending in Congress calling for contractors to similarly pay their lower- and middle-income employees who have been furloughed because of the partial shutdown.


The 7 Republicans who voted against back pay for furloughed workers

But seven lawmakers — all House Republicans — opposed the measure. Those “no” votes came from:

Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.)
Andy Biggs (Ariz.)
Paul Gosar (Ariz.)
Glen Grothman (Wis.)
Thomas Massie (Ky.)
Chip Roy (Texas)
Ted Yoho (Fla.).

Their main objection is the legislation passed by Congress this week would also guarantee back pay in the event of a future shutdown.


Government Shutdown Curtails F.D.A. Food Inspections

The Food and Drug Administration has stopped routine food safety inspections of seafood, fruits, vegetables and many other foods at high risk of contamination because of the federal government’s shutdown, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the agency’s commissioner, said on Wednesday.

F.D.A. inspectors normally examine operations at about 160 domestic manufacturing and food processing plants each week. Nearly one-third of them are considered to be at high risk of causing food-borne illnesses. Food-borne diseases in the United States send about 128,000 people to the hospital each year, and kill 3,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Coast Guard families told they can have garage sales to cope with government shutdown – The Washington Post

Employees of the U.S. Coast Guard who are facing a long U.S. government shutdown just received a suggestion: To get by without pay, consider holding a garage sale, babysitting, dog-walking or serving as a “mystery shopper.”

The tip sheet, titled “Managing your finances during a furlough,” applies to the Coast Guard’s 8,500-person civilian workforce. About 6,400 of them are on indefinite furlough, while 2,100 are working without pay after being identified as essential workers, said Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, a service spokesman.


‘Could you make these guys essential?’: Mortgage industry gets shutdown relief after appeal to senior Treasury officials

Because of the shutdown, the IRS was unable to process a key form that lenders use to confirm borrowers’ incomes before they can grant home loans — a roadblock that threatened to bring the mortgage industry to a halt.


‘We all have bills. We all have to eat.’ For furloughed federal workers, the first missed paychecks ratchet up anxiety.

With only a few weeks’ worth of cash reserves in the bank, and no end in sight to the war of political attrition between Trump and his Capitol Hill foes, the couple have been lowering the thermostat and skimping at the supermarket, part of their overall belt-tightening.
“Using up what’s in the freezer,” Lisa said.
“Stopped eating out,” said Gordy.
“Keeping the lights off when we’re not in the room.”
“Cable TV might have to go.”
“Paying the minimum on the credit cards.”
“Not driving if we don’t have to.”
“I would love a haircut,” Gordy said, “but that’ll have to wait.”


Now on Craigslist, Facebook: Household items from furloughed workers trying to make ends meet

A federal worker in Morgantown, W.Va., took to Facebook this week to sell welding tools, left behind by his deceased father-in-law. Another, a die-hard Star Wars fan in Woodbridge, Va., did the same with a life-size copy of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber. A single father in Indiana hosted a sale on eBay with five pages of things found around the house, including Bibles, Nintendo bedsheets and Dr. Seuss neckties.

“I have $24 in cash on me, I don’t use credit cards and I have $2.40 left in my bank account,” Simeone said. “If we miss this upcoming paycheck, I will be completely broke.”


Over 300 small-business loans a day aren’t happening because of the shutdown

The SBA typically handles almost 200 loans for working capital via the 7(a) loan program and about 120 loans a day for commercial properties through what’s known as the 504 loan program. In total, these two programs alone are dispensing nearly $200 million worth of loans a day to small and midsize U.S. businesses.


‘There’s no money’: Shutdown freezes HUD funds for low-income senior citizens

More than 200 of the contracts that expired in December are for properties, like San Jose Manor II, that provide rental assistance for the elderly, according to LeadingAge, an association for nonprofit providers of aging services. Known as Section 202, the program houses about 400,000 low-income elderly people as part of HUD’s Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance as well as a separate HUD program.

That could mean even fewer options for poor senior citizens. The waiting list for San Jose Manor II Apartments is already one year to one-and-a-half years long, according to Ballard, who said that if residents were forced to leave, they wouldn’t have anywhere else to go. “They would live on the street,” she said. “There’s nothing for them.”


T.S.A. Agents Refuse to Work During Shutdown, Raising Fears of Airport Turmoil

The partial shutdown of the federal government is starting to affect air travel as a growing number of security agents are refusing to work for no pay.

The nation’s 51,000 airport security agents are among the federal employees who have been ordered to work through the partial shutdown, which began on Dec. 22.

On Friday, they missed their first paycheck since it started, a lapse that their union leaders feared would cause more of them to stop showing up for work or even to quit their jobs.

The agents earn about $35,000 a year, on average, union officials said. “We have people that work from paycheck to paycheck and there’s quite a few of them,” said Vincent R. Castellano, national vice president for the union’s second district, which encompasses the Northeast.

My first day with Daily Burn

I signed up for Daily Burn today. They are well-reviewed, it works on my Roku (or anything with a browser) and had a generous month-long free trial. I doubled the trial with a Groupon for 60 days free. I always look for a coupon, a promo code or a better deal when I can. The two pricing tiers are Standard for $15/month and Premium for $27/month. I don’t entirely understand the differences in the two tiers, but it seems like Standard would be more than enough as it seems to offer 20 workout series including the 365 show. They produce a 30-minute workout show every day of the year and stream it live at 9am. It’s then available on-demand after that.

I downloaded the app to our living room Roku and connected it to my account. (Sidenote: I did not have to sign into service on Roku, so you can use a generated password without having to enter it using the Roku remote or Roku app). The free trial is for the Premium membership. It provides access to a huge list of workouts and programs. It’s a little overwhelming at first. This is where the Premium access looks good for the amount of choice, but I don’t need 600 workout videos especially when I am on the beginner/intermediate end of workouts. I’m not going to do anything with hardcore or extreme in the name.

I am at “fat guy, you’ll feel better if you workout today” level.

Since I didn’t want to explore the pile of workouts available to me, I tried the Daily Burn 365 since it was 30 minutes and meant for anyone. It was a good workout. I was dripping and dragging by the end of it. But I was able to do every move in the program today. That’s a major accomplishment. The only thing I couldn’t do was a mountain climber move where you bring your knees to the opposite hand. I’m too fat to pull that move off, but I was able to do a modified version of it and felt good.

I like that there is a daily workout show I can do. That’s part of my problem with doing a workout program. Eventually you do the same routine for the 9th time and you know the same jokes and the witty banter is no longer enjoyable. I like that with a daily show, I get variety both in workouts and the banter. The latter is a small point but it’s something I notice.

Previously, I have only done the Beachbody on Demand workouts. Of those, I have done their 21 Day Fix (a variable-length introductory workout for the entire body), Core De Force (a 45 minute MMA-inspired workout that left me panting on the floor), Cize (a hip-hop dance program) and Country Heat (a country music dance program). There are plenty of Beachbody programs available but there are so many above my level, I will never attempt them. The P90 programs all live there. Lots of extreme and hard-core workouts. Lots of things for people who don’t look like they need to workout because they’re skinny and in amazing shape.

Show me a chubby person trying this workout. That’s the one I want to see. That’s where I need to start. I enjoyed the Beachbody on Demand workouts, especially with the in-set videos that focus on the person performing the modified activities. This was really helpful since sometimes they’ll talk about the modified exercise but will never show it, or show it for less than a rep so I’m left unsure of how to properly modify this crazy exercise I physically cannot do.

I understand it’s called Beachbody and they want to give me a beach body. However, I’m starting with a body that could pass for a sand dune. I am hoping the Daily Burn has more for me at my level. Even if I stick with the 30 minute daily workouts, it will be a huge improvement in my life. That’s the other hard part for me. When I finished a program with Beachbody, it was hard to decide where to go next. There was no obvious next step. I didn’t want to re-do the same workout program because I wanted something different. But the difficulty curve is so drastic, there’s not many options. For awhile, I was switching between something intense like Core de Force and Yoga on alternating days.

I hope with the 365 program, this will help keep me active and engaged. In addition to the huge amount of workout programs available to me. I hope when I finish something, there will be somewhere to go on a smaller difficulty jump. It’s only Day 1 and I’m getting ahead of myself. There’s so much about the service and programs I don’t know.

But I am optimistic after my first day. It felt good. I’ve got two months to decide if this is something worth paying for or not. By then I’ll know if it’s worth my time and effort or not. But there’s so much content, even if we opt for the Standard tier, it will be more than enough content to keep us engaged and moving.

Christmas 2018

The Season of Perpetual Food

I have a mixed history with Christmas. I need my alone time and the holidays are filled with people and activities and socializing and more people and travel. Thankfully, this year the travel was done pre-Christmas so I didn’t have to go anywhere more than a few miles to my sister-in-law for the morning to view the ceremonial small child unwrapping presents.

Which we did and had am excellent breakfast there as we played Headbanz. It worked pretty well and showed how hard some of us guessed at very easy items. The premise of the game is you put a card on your head which you can’t see and ask yes/no questions to figure out what it is.

I learned that I overthink the answers and need to keep it to simple things. Example cards were Giraffe, Train and Sandwich.

I struggled mightily with butterfly after determining it had wings and flew, but was not a bird or a bat, or Fly (another card we’d seen earlier).

The main event is of course, the Christmas Dinner. This year we hosted and my wife worked up the menu including a broccoli salad (very fresh and not filled with mayo), roasted potatoes (because the Big Potato mandates their inclusion at every holiday meal) spinach dip with fresh veggies in a sourdough loaf bowl (because you need fuel to prepare the rest of the meal).

The main course would be a double-header of grilled salmon and grilled turkey legs.Grilled SalmonGrilled Turkey Legs

It was my second time grilling turkey legs and my first time grilling salmon. I largely winged the salmon and focused on not over-cooking it. My key to any properly cooked meat is to remove it from the grill about 10 degrees before it hits the recommended temperature. It’s still going to cook inside and instead of dry, tough meat, you have a juicy, moist meal to enjoy.

We set the table. Complete with plants and a small child.

Christmas dinner set at the table with my nephew present.
Christmas dinner set at the table with my nephew present.

Christmas was a success. We sat in front of the fire and played some more Headbanz and visited as adults who have eaten too many delicious foods do on holidays.

Zoo Lights

We went to see the Zoo Lights tonight before the shutdown affects the Zoo’s functioning. In all the years I’ve lived near DC I never remember going before.

It was fun to walk through a familiar place at night. I enjoy the zoo because I see something new every time I go.

The animal houses were closed tonight. And even if they weren’t, the animals are sleeping.

Though I was hoping to see the kiwi bird they claim to have there. I’ve looked a dozen times and never seen the small sneaky bird.

One thing that struck me from my youth was the various statues of animals there. Specifically the bear cubs and the anteater. I remember climbing on those statues when I was a kid.

I don’t have many firm memories from the zoo, but I do vividly remember those statues.

Employee Spotlight

It’s an honor to be nominated.

Last month I received an email from work I didn’t expect.

Hello,

An employee spotlight article in an upcoming edition of the FACT will spotlight you, and your career at the FDA. Please answer the following questions and include a picture of yourself to accompany the article. Since many of us work at home, or in separate locations it is always nice to get to know a little about our fellow coworkers. 

It asked a few questions about my for an upcoming employee spotlight for our newsletter. I responded with far more than they needed but I never know how much to write or what they’ll pick out to use.

Please describe what you do in your current role to support the FDA.

My current role at the FDA is a Rich Media Engineer. In short, that means I help support the WebEx, Video Teleconference, Streaming TV, and Cable TV at the FDA for the agency of 25,000 and anyone externally they interact with nationally and internationally.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?

The biggest challenge I face in my role is information sharing and institutional knowledge. At FDA, information lives mostly in email and in various SharePoint silos where it quickly gets out of date and forgotten. When I worked at NIH when we had an enterprise wiki where all our knowledge lived. When something was out of date, it could be updated instantly, by anyone so we had a living set of accurate documents.

What do you enjoy most about your position?

I most enjoy the challenge of supporting a diverse set of collaboration and information tools. I like to educate customers about the technological options available to them and work with them to assure successful events.

What is your career history? Where have you worked before joining the FDA account; what did you do there?

I came from the quick printing industry where my father owned and operated a chain of stores called Copy General (based in Sterling, VA). I spent about a decade working in Desktop Support at NIH, The Atlantic Magazine, Honeywell, and the City of Richmond, VA. For the past 5 years I’ve worked in collaboration support, first at the Department of Labor, and currently at FDA.

Personal interests – What are your hobbies? Have you been on a recent vacation?

I enjoy walking around the local parks, my favorite being Lake Needwood. In my off-time, I like to tinker with technology toys, read (current favorites are John Scalzi and Jonathan Maberry) and play video games (current addition: Destiny 2).

What do you see from your office? Do you have a favorite place to visit in your area? Please include a picture with a description of what you are seeing “out your window” to accompany the article.

My office doesn’t have a window so a brick wall wouldn’t be interesting, so here’s a picture from my window when I work remote.

Education/Certifications?

I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in Creative Advertising.

Where do you reside?

Rockville, MD

Family?

My wife is an Art Therapist running her practice in the DC area. My brother founded and runs Read The Docs, an open-source platform for documentation.

This is what they ended up using in the newsletter that went out to everyone.

Employee Spotlight: Carl Holscher

View from the building where I work at the FDA.
View from the hall window where I work at FDA (since I sit in a windowless room.)

Carl’s current role at the FDA is Rich Media Engineer. He helps support WebEx, Video Teleconferencing, Streaming TV, and Cable TV at the FDA; this includes providing support to anyone the FDA interacts with nationally and internationally. The biggest challenge he faces in his role is the process of information sharing and institutional knowledge. Carl states, “At the FDA, information lives mostly in email and in various SharePoint silos where it quickly gets out of date and forgotten”. The most enjoyable aspect of his role is the challenge of supporting a diverse set of collaborative and informative tools. Carl likes educating customers about the technological options available to them and works with them to assure successful events.

Carl came from the quick printing industry where his father owned and operated a chain of stores called Copy General (based in Sterling, VA). He spent about a decade working in Desktop Support at NIH, The Atlantic Magazine, Honeywell, and the City of Richmond, VA. For the past 5 years, he has worked in collaboration support, first at the Department of Labor, and currently at the FDA. Carl graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in Creative Advertising.

When he is not in the office, Carl enjoys walking around local parks, his favorite being Lake Needwood. He also likes to tinker with technology toys, reading (his current favorite authors are John Scalzi and Jonathan Maberry) and playing video games (currently: Destiny 2). Carl resides in Rockville, MD.

The picture above is from his window when he works remotely. (This is where I forgot to update the text before I sent it. The picture is from FDA’s White Oak Campus, which I cannot see from my house.)

It was really nice to be selected (either at random or using some criteria I’ll never know. It’s nice to be recognized, even to have a little interview about yourself for your co-workers to get to know you better.

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