What it’s like to be a military family during a government shutdown.

I was sitting on the couch on Friday evening when I turned to my husband and let him know that the federal budget hadn’t been passed (again) and the government had officially shut down (again). We both sighed and started googling on our phones to see how we would be affected and what we would need to do to prepare this time.

Imagine for a minute that the executives from the company you work for couldn’t hit their deadlines so they temporarily shut down their operations and quit paying their employees indefinitely until the matter is resolved. Oh, but you still have to work. Also, the executives will still be paid.

You’re left with trying to figure out how you’re going to pay for your mortgage, your bills, and groceries with no way of knowing when you will see your next pay check. If you’re lucky, business will resume as usual before pay day and you won’t be affected. If you’re unlucky, you may need to make this next paycheck last longer and start looking for other resources to help float you through. If you’re resourceful, you may have a savings to pull from but if you’re like one of the hundreds of thousands (or 25% of active duty) in the military that not only live pay check to pay check, but also rely on food aid a savings account may not exist.

Navy Federal and USAA which are both military affiliated financial institutions have already started offering 0% interest loans to help active duty military get through this first pay period which they may be facing without a paycheck, but what if this issue were to extend more than a couple weeks? In the past this hasn’t been an issue, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Assuming you aren’t already living paycheck to paycheck and have any kind of an emergency savings account sacked away, how many paychecks could you miss before you would be in serious financial straits? Now you can begin to see why the federal shut down is such a big deal to the 1.4 million active duty service members and their families in this country.

Now imagine that your company was also connected to all the other services you use every day from your child’s day care center, to their school, to your family’s doctor’s office and hospital, health insurance, and even your grocery store so that every time your company had to temporarily shut down because of a budgetary issue you had to find which if any of these services would be open and available during a shut down.

The issue of the federal shut down doesn’t just affect military pay checks, it also affects services that military families utilize and rely on as well. Commissaries which offer tax-free, discounted groceries aren’t operational during a federal shut down. While military hospitals are often available for emergency and inpatient procedures, well visits and non-critical operations may be closed. Military families also rely on military child care centers (CDC’s), which often have to close during a shut down as well. This places an additional burden on families who now have to work unpaid to find alternative child care when they are often without a family support system nearby.

While the government shut down may seem minor, military families already face a lot of uncertainty. We often don’t know where we will live more than two to three year stretches at a time. We may not know when our soldiers or sailors will be deployed or how long they will be gone. Some of us may not even know where our loved ones are going or what dangers they may face when they get there. Regardless of the bipartisan feuds and budgetary issues in our senate, knowing if or when we will be paid should not be one of the uncertainties military families face.