(BIVN) – As the record-long partial shutdown of the federal government continues, the personal stories of the employees affected by the funding lapse are making headlines, including a Hilo couple struggling to pay bills and medical expenses.
During a speech on the senate floor last week, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaiʻi) talked about furloughed U.S. Geological Survey employee Scott Pekalib and his husband Jay. They are one of the Hawaiʻi Island families harmed by the shutdown, and were highlighted in a January 13 Hawaiʻi Tribune-Herald news article.
Schatz said Scott has had “a tough few months”.
In October, Jay went in to the hospital “for a routine surgery that went horribly wrong,” said Senator Schatz. “Jay went into cardiac arrest, and was in an induced coma for several days. He had to be flown to another island to receive the care he needed.”
“Scott and Jay spent all their savings to get through this ordeal. After paying for medicine, hotels, and airfare, they were living paycheck to paycheck. Now, because of the government shutdown, Scott’s paycheck reads zero dollars,” Senator Schatz continued. “He doesn’t know how he’s going to buy gas to take his husband to the doctor, or how they’re going to pay bills. He is making impossible choices between buying the prescription drugs he needs, and the ones his husband needs. All this pain and suffering because the Senate won’t vote to re-open the government.”
The Pekalibs created a GoFundMe page on January 11, hoping to help make ends meet. “Missed our first check today. Car, phone, insurance all due,” Scott wrote on the trending campaign, which is no longer accepting donations.
House and Senate Democrats have disagreed with President Donald Trump’s position that any spending plan include billions of dollars to fund a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. The issue has been the main sticking point in getting the government funded.
“So I ask my Republican colleagues to call for a vote,” Sen. Schatz concluded on the Senate floor. “And if the president vetoes a bill to end this suffering, then we can override it. That’s our prerogative as the U.S. Senate: to do what’s best for the nation — for the health, the safety, and the economic security of our constituents. Let’s vote to reopen the government.”