The impact of the United States government shutdown has made its way to Jackson County. As little as 20 years ago, no one in our community would have had a second thought about decisions in Washington D.C. directly affecting the livelihood of Jackson County Citizens. That all changed with the recent mandated government shutdown that came on the heels of Hurricane Michael.
With no agreement on the building of a wall at the southern border, the partial government shutdown goes on. Residents in Marianna who are employed at the Federal prison are feeling the impact of the shutdown daily. The husband leaves for his two-week stint only to return to find his wife packing for hers.
FCI employees now have a seven hour, 400 plus mile commute to work which they make in two-week intervals. For families with husbands and wives both working at the prison, the impact is doubled. Add one, two or three children to the mix and you can see the impact it has on the family unit.
Federal employees are dealing with the situation the very best they can but feel trapped to openly discuss the hardship for fear of being targeted for their comments. One 22-year employee said recently when given anonymity that the hardest part was all of the critical comments from non-federal employees about how they should have been prepared and had money saved. He said he and his wife did have money saved prior to Hurricane Michael but that the debt they incurred not covered by insurance with debris removal, deductibles on their insured property for their house and both vehicles, had consumed all of their savings. They are now faced with a seven-hour drive, out-of-pocket expenses while the government remains shut down. He quickly says they have it better than most since their children are grown and not under their budget but for families who have children at home and in school, they are really feeling the pinch.
One employee with two non-school age children said she and her husband have pulled their children out of daycare to save that expense but fear having a spot for them when the shutdown is over and they can afford to have them in daycare again. She said right now she keeps them for two weeks while her husband is away working and her husband keeps them on the weeks she is away.
In an interview with our partnered station, WMBB Channel 13, federal correctional officer Charles Jones said, “Waking up, packing up, and heading to work is the same routine Charles Jones has been doing for the last six years. “I transferred here about six years ago but I’ve been working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons for almost ten years.”
Except now, work isn’t an hour drive away from his Lynn Haven home. “It’s more than 6 hours that we’re traveling right now it’s almost four hundred miles,” said Jones. Like many other buildings in the area, the Federal Prison in Marianna received damage from Hurricane Michael.
“They had some damage to the facility and had to move those inmates out,” said Jim Dean, Marianna City Manager. Correction officers have also been relocated to work in Yazoo for two week stretches. With the partial government shutdown, the employees are not getting paid.
The Times received a call from Malone Mayor Gene Wright Monday morning with concerns about federal workers with children and the lack of a paycheck and the impact it was having on the families. We spoke with the mother of an employee who stated her grandchildren were suffering because of missed paychecks and one parent out of the home for two weeks at a time working six or seven hours away, “Something needs to be done to help these employees out now, not whenever the government opens again.”
Wright immediately went to work and has supplies on the way. He is in contact with federal employees at FCI to set up the best way to get the employees and their families assistance. He has monetary donations coming in that will be distributed also.
And the federal prison isn’t the only federal offices affected. The United States Department of Agriculture provides crucial assistance to farmers and cattlemen, many of whom plant cotton, soybeans, peanuts or raise cattle.
A visit to the local U.S.D.A. last week found a printed sign taped to the door that read, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture office is currently closed, due to the lapse in federal government funding. The office will reopen once funding is restored.”
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