Politics & Government

How the government shutdown is affecting thousands in North Carolina

Before reporting for work Thursday as a passenger screener at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Sharda Lloyd had to make another stop — at Crisis Assistance Ministry.

Lloyd, who works for the Transportation Security Administration, needed help paying the rent.

She’s one of more than 6,300 North Carolinians who work for airport security, federal courts, national parks and other federal agencies who won’t be paid this week, according to the office of U.S. Rep. Alma Adams of Charlotte.

Nationwide they’re among 800,000 federal workers who’ll miss paychecks as the shutdown enters its 21st day, tying it for the longest in U.S. history.

“It has made me a little on edge,” said Lloyd, 33. “But I know everything comes to an end.”

As the partial government shutdown continues with no immediate end in sight, its impacts are being felt throughout Charlotte and the Carolinas.

Read Next

In a letter this week to President Donald Trump, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said the shutdown threatens at least $168 million for Hurricane Florence recovery.

Construction has stopped on the new air traffic control tower at the airport, and federal officials say delays are likely to result in cost-overruns.

North Carolina’s 350 FBI employees have been deemed “essential personnel” and are on duty for the forseeable future. For now, they’re not being paid.

Federal courts continue to operate even though the money to pay the personnel runs out this month. Next week, for example, a former Hickory police officer will go on trial in Statesville. The prosecutors won’t be paid. Neither will the judge and jury. Nor will a trio of public defenders or the federal marshals providing security.

“It’s the proverbial ‘check in the mail’. We just don’t know when we’ll be sending it,” says Frank Johns, the clerk of court for the Western District of North Carolina, which stretches from Charlotte to Asheville and beyond.

Prosecutors and the rest of the 90-member workforce at the U.S. Attorney’s Office will miss their first paycheck next week. Other employees deemed nonessential under U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray have been placed on unpaid leave.

In spite of the shutdown, criminal trials in federal court will go on as scheduled. Jurors chosen to hear those cases are being told that pending an unexpected resolution of the shutdown, they won’t be receiving their $40 daily stipend and round-trip mileage until a later date. Murray said he’s using every resource “to get the job done.”

“All I can tell you is that I continue to go around and speak to my colleagues about the incredible things they are doing every day to take care of the Western District of North Carolina, and to keep it up despite the significant hurdles that have been thrown in our way,” he said.

Federal employees aren’t the only ones affected.

Brooks Troxler hasn’t been able to close the $550,000 loan from the Small Business Administration to expand his computer-repair business in Charlotte, according to Thursday’s Washington Post. “We were 99 percent done,” he told the Post. “We were at the finish line, and now it’s like they pulled me back.”

The shutdown hasn’t touched everyone who relies on federal aid. Officials say money for housing vouchers and food stamps won’t run out until next month. State agencies such as the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality say they can operate federally funded programs for several months.

In Washington, partisans are split. U.S. Rep. David Price, a Chapel Hill Democrat, Thursday introduced a bill to pay for the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. It’s one of four separate spending bills House Democrats are expected to bring to the floor.

“In addition to the hundreds of thousands of federal employees and their families who are furloughed or working without pay, millions of Americans and small businesses rely on essential government services and have been left in the cold thanks to the Trump Shutdown,” Price said in a statement.

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, a Republican from western North Carolina, stands firmly with Trump, who wants money for a border wall before he reopens the government. Meadows said he believes Republican lawmakers are united.

“If they’re hearing like I am from my district, it’s not something that I can yield on,” he told McClatchy. “You can’t cave. That’s what the Democrats don’t understand. It’s all or nothing.”

Lloyd was scheduled to be paid Saturday. Her last check was already less than normal because of the shutdown.

She said she’s gotten help from her family to pay some bills but needs help coming up with her $1,100 a month rent in northwest Charlotte.

“If you fall behind on one thing, it’s like you’re backpedaling,” she said.

If she’s found a silver lining, Lloyd says, it’s been the passengers at Charlotte Douglas. Often surly, they’ve gone out of their way to be understanding, she says.

“It’s nice to know we’re appreciated during this time.”

Staff writer Fred Clasen-Kelly and Brian Murphy of McClatchy’s Washington bureau contributed.

Jim Morrill, who grew up near Chicago, covers state and local politics. He’s worked at the Observer since 1981 and taught courses on North Carolina politics at UNC Charlotte and Davidson College.
Michael Gordon has been the Observer’s legal affairs writer since 2013. He has been an editor and reporter at the paper since 1992, occasionally writing about schools, religion, politics and sports. He spent two summers as “Bikin Mike,” filing stories as he pedaled across the Carolinas.