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With the federal government shutdown entering its third week, LebTown wanted to understand its impact from the local level.
We spoke to Mike Lightner, a Cedar Crest graduate who currently works for the Department of the Interior as a Park Ranger.
At the time the shutdown occurred, Lightner had been stationed at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in southeast Georgia, where he is currently in a four-month training program run by the Department of Homeland Security.
The 1,600 acre facility halfway between Savannah and Jacksonville constitutes its own zip code. With an average high reaching 92° in July (compared to Lebanon’s 85°), Lightner is hoping that he can get back to training soon.
“I’m excited to get this training over with because quite frankly I don’t want to be in Georgia during the summer months,” he said.
The Department of Interior’s budget was exhausted December 22, when Lightner was informed that the facility would be closing down due to the lapsed funding. He was then flown home to the Independence National Historic Park where he was given the option to work (and not get paid) or take a furlough (and not get paid). Lightner choose the latter, an opportunity available because there were sufficient rangers who chose to work.
(In past federal shutdowns, the government has acted to make employees who worked in these situations whole, but it takes a specific act of Congress to do so and therefore the income is not guaranteed.)
Lightner says he received a paycheck from the government on Tuesday, his last until going back to work.
“Luckily I plan for these kind of things and have money saved to survive but I have a lot of coworkers that live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford to pay their mortgage or rent,” he said.
During his unplanned time off, Lightner has been spending time with his wife, Allie Steck-Lightner, and his cat, Marc Andre Puery (it is not clear how well the cat goaltends).
Although he has been studying and working out, Lightner admits being somewhat bored. For now though, his family is benefiting from the extra time: Lightner recently finished building a few horse jumps for his wife, who owns and competes with a couple of horses.
It is not clear when the federal government will reopen. Today marks the 16th day of the shutdown; if the shutdown lasts through this week, it would exceed the previous record for shutdown duration, which occurred over 21 days in 1995-96.
Do you know someone who is not working due to the federal government shutdown? We’d love to talk to them, find us in the comments or via email.