The tension in the auditorium was evident as the rows filled with concerned civilians. By this time, the nationwide partial government shutdown had been going on for 22 days.
Washington state Congressman Rick Larsen facilitated a town hall to discuss the partial government shutdown on Sunday, Jan. 13 at Whatcom Community College. Residents from Whatcom and Skagit counties gathered to voice their concerns and share their experiences with the shutdown.
“We have not been paid since the shutdown,” audience member Art Alaniz said. “Last week was our pay period, and we didn’t get paid. We don’t know when we will be receiving that paycheck.”
This government shutdown has taken effect as President Donald Trump has continually pushed for funding to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico with strong opposition from Democrats. Larsen discussed the need for alternatives to the president’s wall, saying he believes that strong border security starts with well-trained federal law enforcement, infrastructure and modern technology.
“The president and I disagree on the need for a border wall,” Larsen said. “There can be border security without the wall. Building the wall on the southern border is not the answer in securing that border.”
During the event, Larsen said that 75 percent of the federal budget has been approved and is funded through Sep. 30, 2019. The problem is the 25 percent of the federal government not currently funded. It’s groups within this percentage, such as the Department of Homeland Security that are experiencing the effects of the shutdown.
Other groups directly affected by the shutdown include the Federal Trade Commission, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and federally funded laboratories, Larsen said.
One Skagit County resident who reached out to Larsen, shared that she is currently living in a motel because her Department of Agriculture and Rural Development vouture was not finalized before the shutdown went into effect.
A Marysville resident also said he is unable to file a consumer complaint with the Federal Trade Commission about suspected consumer fraud because the trade commission isn’t operating.
Larsen listened to these concerns and said his goal is to reopen all of the government and put citizens back to work. Since Jan. 3, Larsen has repeatedly pushed to reopen the government and ensure workers get their withheld paychecks that are owed to them. The President signed the bill to give their paychecks last week.
The U.S. Senate's inability to come to an agreement on funding for the wall has left 10 thousand people in the state furloughed as they continue to work without pay, Larsen said.
“Eight hundred thousand jobs lost. No pay. People who may have spent 30 years, maybe even 30 days on the job, and suddenly they aren’t getting paid,” audience member Jan Krick said.