Federal workers and their supporters rallied for their jobs near the White House on Thursday as the partial government shutdown rolled through its third week with no end in sight.
Almost half of the 800,000 civilian federal employees are not working, and even those that are won't be paid until the stalemate is settled. For most, the furlough becomes real Friday when they miss their first payday.
Lila Johnson, who has worked as a contracted custodian for the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 21 years, was among the demonstrators on a cold, windy day. She said her daughter has been helping her out financially.
“It’s a struggle," she said. "It’s time for them to open the government back up so people like me ... can go back to work.”
The impact is rocking federal employees across the nation. In tiny Arcata, California, single mom Leisyka Lee has worked for the Bureau of Land Management for 17 years.
"I live paycheck to paycheck," she said. "I earn a living wage when I work. I love my job and I just want to get back to work."
In Madison, Wisconsin, Carl Houtman has spent the last 21 years working for the Forest Service. The chemical engineer said he is the primary wage earner for his family of four – including two in college.
"Guess what happens this time of year – tuition bills," he said. Property tax. Christmas credit cards. This is absolutely the worst time of year to miss a paycheck."
President Donald Trump has said he would be willing to keep the shutdown going for a year or more if Democrats don't yield to his demands for $5.7 billion toward funding a border wall. Talks broke down Wednesday, and it was unclear when or if they would restart.
Trump has suggested that liberals should feel compelled to go along, claiming that "most of the people not getting paid are Democrats." He also has said federal workers support his plans for the wall and his decision to force the shutdown.
"The president has a cavalier attitude because he has no idea what it's like to rely on a regular paycheck," said Steve Lenkart, spokesman for the National Federation of Federal Workers.