EVERETT — Anna Kagley thinks her family has enough savings to get through January. And they could make it to the end of February by putting the mortgage and car payments on credit cards.
“When those bills come, I don’t know what I am going to do,” Kagley said.
She is among the 800,000 federal workers not being paid as the partial government shutdown stretches to nearly a month — the longest in American history — with no end in sight. The Everett resident, who provides the sole paycheck for her family, was furloughed in December and missed her first paycheck earlier this month.
“It would be better if there was an end date. Then I could adjust my finances. The unknown is so hard,” Kagley said. “I’m afraid to spend any money on anything.”
As uncertainty hovers, Kagley has been keeping vigil at the bedside of her son, who remains in intensive care at Seattle Children’s Hospital. The teenager contracted pneumonia after a spinal fusion surgery needed to relieve pain caused by his cerebral palsy.
“I want to focus on Ethan right now and not filling out forms,” Kagley said.
While also attending to her son, she’s signed up for unemployment and started paperwork for a 90-day, interest-free loan that Washington Federal is offering to federal workers.
Ethan is one of the more than 60 children Kagley and her husband have fostered and cared for over the years. Many of them, like Ethan, have had complex medical conditions that require constant care.
Kagley has been through several shutdowns during her time as a fishery biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“This one is way more stressful,” Kagley said, pulling her wavy dark brown hair away from her face. “I don’t see the president caving anytime soon.”
She began her career at the agency 30 years ago as a high school volunteer. It’s also where she met her husband. At NOAA, she studies chinook salmon, the food the ailing Southern Resident orca pod relies on.
“I love my job. I tell my kids, you have to do something you are crazy passionate about so you keep doing it,” she said. “I feel my job is really important — protecting our marine resources.”
Her husband has become the main caretaker for their four kids who still live at home.
“My husband has to be home 24/7, and I need to work,” she said.
Before Kagley was furloughed, the family’s household budget was already under more stress than normal. They needed to purchase a different vehicle to transport Ethan. A friend started an online fundraiser, www.bit.ly/KagleyVan, to raise some of the money needed.
More than 11,000 federal workers across the state are affected by the shutdown, according to Governing, a monthly magazine that covers state and local governments.
If it continues into next month, Brian Smith, chief operation officer of Volunteers of America Western Washington, expects to see more federal workers coming to food banks.
As demand is predicted to increase, however, the organization’s resources are in jeopardy due to the partial closure of the government. The VOA relies on funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to stock shelves. That money pays for about a quarter of the food the VOA gives out, according to Smith.
“If (the shutdown) continues into February we really don’t have a contingency plan,” he said.
On Wednesday, the president signed a bill providing back pay to workers once the shutdown is over. But that assurance doesn’t help Kagley now. Or the contract employees Kagley works alongside every day who won’t be compensated.
“We have zero income coming and a lot going out,” she said. “Who has three months of savings?”
One bright spot for Kagley is the support she has received during the shutdown.
“People I don’t even know have dropped off dinner,” Kagley said.
A self-described liberal, Kagley thinks neither the Democrats or Republicans are “being particularly professional.”
“I’d like to see them table the wall discussion and open the government,” she said. “Stop holding people hostage.”