For Local Military Wives, Government Shutdown Would Be 'Tragic'

Military families who live paycheck to paycheck threatened by political stalemate in Washington.

For many Americans, the possibility of a federal government shutdown is just another case of politics gone wild.

For Erin Bell's family, it could be devastating.

"My husband's halfway around the world worrying about whether we'll have food on the table or enough gas to get the kids to school," Bell said.

That's because Chris Bell, 34, a 16-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, may not have a paycheck if the threatened shutdown takes place at 12:01 a.m. Saturday. The shutdown would close national parks, delay income tax refund checks and halt Federal Housing Authority loans. It would also interrupt paychecks for thousands of American troops, a scenario that Erin Bell said would be "tragic."

"We live paycheck to paycheck," Bell said. "It's really going to sink a lot of families."

Bell, 33, of Bradenton, is a stay-at-home mom to four kids, ages 3-10, while her husband is stationed on Diego Garcia, an atoll in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Bell said she's already had to cancel weekend plans to make sure the family has enough left in the bank account to stay afloat should the shutdown occur.

"If it does, it's atrocious," said Linda Craig, executive director of Manasota Operation Troop Support, a nonprofit that aids military families in Manatee and Sarasota counties. "It's offensive."

Craig said many of the military wives she works with have been very vocal and outraged over the possible shutdown. Several had joined a Facebook events page titled "Ensuring Pay For Our Military Act of 2011," named after legislation proposed by a bipartisan group of senators that would keep the paychecks flowing. The page had more than 325,000 supporters late Thursday night.

Local impact

The partial shutdown wouldn't have much effect on local government, said Nick Azzara, Manatee County's information outreach specialist.

It would, however, cause a delay for anyone applying for a home loan through the Federal Housing Administration and force a closure of Bradenton's .

"Everybody still remains hopeful there won't be a shutdown," said park superintendent Scott Pardue. "It could always go to that 11th hour of discussions."

Reaction to the potential shutdown around Bradenton wasn't all negative Thursday.

"Go ahead," said Bryan Tupper, 27, a member of the Manatee County Young Republicans who said he was not speaking on behalf of the organization. "That way, the government isn't spending money and putting us further in debt."

Tupper said Democrats are to blame for failing to pass a budget.

"You need a budget to run a business," Tupper said. "The U.S. government is the biggest business in the world."

Richard O'Brien, chairman of the Manatee County Democratic Party, said President Barack Obama has already carved billions out of the budget, and Republicans are "trying to cut bone now."

"It's serious games they're playing," O'Brien said. "They're infusing ideology into it."

O'Brien said he was concerned about putting 800,000 federal employees — including some who oversee food regulation and national security — temporarily out of work.

Others, like 38-year-old Nicole Wetherington, a Bradenton stay-at-home mom, said she was worried about the shutdown's effect on servicemen and women.

"Will their families eat retroactively?" she asked in a Twitter message.

For Erin Bell and her family, the political infighting in Washington hits too close to home.

"I just really think it's sad they can't get their act together," she said.


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