As It Happens

U.S. shutdown has this IRS worker selling blood and visiting a food bank

Like hundreds of thousands of other U.S. federal government workers, Krystle Kirkpatrick has been struggling to make ends meet.

Krystle Kirkpatrick will be ordered back to work with no pay as shutdown enters 26th day

Krystle Kirkpatrick, centre, expects to be summoned back to work at the IRS office in Ogden, Utah, without pay in the next few days, as the U.S. government shutdown nears its fourth week. (Submitted by Krystle Kirkpatrick)
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Transcript

Like hundreds of thousands of other U.S. federal government workers, Krystle Kirkpatrick has been struggling to make ends meet.

After nearly a month off the job with no income, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employee is expecting to be ordered back to work next week to help process returns and pay out refunds — still without pay. Some of her colleagues already got their notice to return on Wednesday.

The U.S. government shutdown entered its 26th day on Wednesday, with Republicans and Democrats at an impasse over President Donald Trump's demands for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the Mexican border.

Here is part of Kirkpatrick's conversation with As It Happens host Carol Off about how the shutdown is affecting her life.

What did you think when you heard that you and your co-workers would be heading back to work without pay?

There's a lot of expenses that come with working, like gas, lunches, daycare, things like that. And I'm wondering how I'm going to pay those when all I'm getting for a paycheque is an IOU.

And you're not just having to pay for daycare, gas, lunch, all those costs about going back to work — you have the expenses of, what, I guess a mortgage, don't you?

Yeah, we have, you know, our regular bills — mortgage, medication, activities for your children. 

Tell us a bit about how you're ... coping with that. What resources do you have?

Well, at first we thought, you know, maybe it was just going to last a week. But when we thought it was going to last longer than a week, I applied for unemployment. When I thought it would last longer than two weeks, I signed up to donate plasma.

Now that it's looking like four weeks — even though we're being recalled —  I'm looking at getting a job as a bartender, because that'll be in the evening and I can work both of those jobs.

I don't want to have to work all day and then work all evening and missing my children, but I also don't want to go into credit card debt. I don't want to take out loans, because that's going to end up costing me more in the long run. 

Kirkpatrick, right, protests the shutdown with her family at a rally in Ogden on Jan. 10. (Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)

I understand you've also learned what it is to go to a food bank for the first time.

The Catholic Community Services put out an offer for federal employees for a box of food, and I didn't want to do it at first, but my thought process was if I could get food from them, that was that much less money I have to spend on groceries, that much more money I can save. 

Your husband, is he working?

He is.

I understand he has medications that he needs all the time, is that right?

He has an autoimmune disease and his medications are pretty expensive. But with me working, we're able to pay the extra.

Without me working, that's a big chunk of change to go toward a medication bill — but we can't just take him off his medications or then he wouldn't be working either because he'd instantly get sick.

What are you using for money at this point? Are you tapping into your savings?

I had to tap into my savings to pay my mortgage payment because they weren't willing to allow me to delay it until my unemployment came through or we received back-pay without penalizing me, hitting my credit.

My savings is not going to last very long, if I'm going into it for $1,000 each time.

Social worker Pam Harrison holds a sign protesting the government shutdown at the rally in Ogden. (Natalie Behring/Getty Image)

When do you think this will end? Do you have any idea how long you will be working without pay?

I have no idea when it will end. It seems like the longer it goes on, the more each side digs their feet in.

Who do you hold responsible?

I think it is on everyone's shoulders. It is on the administration, it's on the Senate, it's on the House.

We're all Americans. They need to work together to get this figured out. That's their job and they need to do their job so that I can do my job. 

Well, they have figured out that they need you to do your job, and so the government is ordering you and your co-workers back to work at Internal Revenue Service in order to get people's cheques out and do the work that you have to do. ... Do you sympathize at all with why you would be ordered back to work, even if they can't pay you?

I hate to throw the word "fair" around, but it really doesn't seem fair that we would be called back to work to process tax returns and refunds and things of that nature, not getting paid. It seems like there's something wrong with that picture.

Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview producedby Kate Swoger. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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