Furloughed Worker Helps Others, Braces For New Shutdown
By Dianne Anderson
Not everyone is in a position to hand out mini-loans without interest, and most wouldn’t if they could.
But Joe Rodgers gives what he can for family and friends to survive the past, and possibly the future government shutdown.
Over the past two months, he has come out of pocket with quite a few interest-free no fee small loans to help sustain fellow furloughed workers as their mortgage and other big bills come due.
Impending worries of the potential Friday federal shutdown have many workers, like himself, waiting on pins and needles.
Most of the 800,000 federal workers aren’t ready to face another long stint, forced to work for free.
“Our savings accounts are not a large one, and it [the shutdown] goes on for days. All your payments come in, and you tend to not have enough money to pay your bills,” said Rodgers, a Federal Aviation Administration Engineer Technician at Ontario International Airport.
He reached out to some of his furloughed friends to lend them enough to take care of their basic needs. He said the recent airport food distribution with Bruce Atlas and San Bernardino Community Action Partnership was a big help.
Two paychecks is a lot of money for anyone to miss, even if some workers have managed to save a little. It goes quick.
They also must pay for gas to get to work.
“Especially if you recently got into your home, and you’ve got a big bill, the insurance, cars, and car payment. It’s a lot of money,” he said. “You fall behind on everything, you have no choice.”
As expected, things are very stressful for workers, he said. The government has opened up some assistance programs to stall foreclosures for now. They stepped in with programs at the last minute, keeping banks at bay for those that have missed payments.
Even so, no one knows what lurks around the corner.
“Everyone is assuming that’s the scary one,” said Rodgers, a longtime resident of Rialto.
What’s worse, he said that some have money they could potentially tap in their pension fund, but it is off limits. They are not allowed to use their own money during the shutdown.
Rodgers was a recently invited guest of U.S. Rep. Norma J. Torres (D-CA) to the State of the Union address. Meeting the Congresswoman was also important to change his view on who is doing what in the Legislature.
He spent hours in the office, and watched as her phone rang off the hook and how she responded to calls for help.
Until then, he was more than a bit jaded with all government representatives.
“I felt that all congresspeople, like the President, had ice-water running through their veins. Congresswoman Torres, the way she put it, is that we are flying without a pilot,” he said.
That may be true in more ways than one. Safety is an issue as workers perform under duress from work without pay, but also experiencing overflow and backed up projects.
He said the workers are dealing with a big amount of backlog.
“Everything piles up, and the safety of the airplanes becomes a great concern,” he said.
During the historic 35 day shutdown, he said recent bad weather affected equipment and the airplane relies on the equipment for a safe landing.
“We’re still overhauling equipment that was messed up from the last rain, we’re running on minimum,” he said.
Worrying over bills with no money coming in can impact mental health, even for those that work on the aircraft.
They talk about it to each other about it, he said. If they see fellow workers getting stressed out, they tell them to take time out, and walk away because it’s too dangerous to work on the equipment.
“If someone is in jeopardy of losing their home in a 35-day run, they haven’t recovered or anything, and it happens again – it’s going to be a double whammy,” he said.