The Wash

Temporary government funding still leaves some military families worried

The U.S. Capitol during the day.
On Capitol Hill, Congress faces uncertainty with aid to Ukraine and Israel. (Daniela Lobo/The Wash)

While the government avoided a shutdown Saturday, the temporary funding does not ease the concerns of some military families.

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The temporary funding resolution enacted Saturday night brought relief to federal workers. However, many military personnel and their families say they are still scrambling, particularly if a shutdown happens in November.

After days on the cusp of a government shutdown, Congress gave itself 45 additional days to pass fiscal year 2024 appropriations bills, which does not leave much time for service members to prepare for upcoming bills. 

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif, addresses reporters Saturday.
Speaker McCarthy told the press Saturday that the House will continue passing appropriations bills starting Monday. (Katherine Hapgood/The Wash)

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., vowed many times that the House would get this year’s spending bills passed, specifically citing the needs of military personnel.

“We cannot look the men and women in our military in the eye and have them wonder why they are not going to be able to pay their bills,” McCarthy said.  

Service members are expected to report for duty whether they are paid or not. 

According to the Military Family Advisory Network, a nonprofit that works to connect military families with resources, more than half of the respondents to its 2021 survey said they generally experienced financial barriers. This includes a quarter of currently serving families who have less than $500 in emergency savings, according to about 9,000 responses from military families. 

Shannon Razsadin, the president and executive director of the organization, said this short-term budget solution is acceptable, but the continuous uncertainty for service members and their families negatively impacts their lives.

“We need to get off this hamster wheel. We need to get out of this cycle of uncertainty around pay,” Razsadin said. “It is not healthy for people to worry about when they’re going to get paid next.” 

More than 1 million military personnel and their families will feel the impact if the government shuts down in November, with thousands of active duty members overseas.

“A lot of military members live paycheck to paycheck. So, knowing it is coming can help in certain ways, but not that much,” said Kirsten Sisson, a former member of the Air Force.  Sisson, originally from Easton, Pennsylvania, currently works as a federal visual information specialist with the U.S. Forest Service in Washington, D.C.

Military personnel are not allowed to take leave during a shutdown, even if it was previously approved. During the last government shutdown from December 2018 to January 2019, Sisson said she had to return to work, even though she was on personal leave, and would have had to pay additional money to take her kids to daycare. 

“I had to bring all three of my kids into the Pentagon to sign my furlough paperwork while I was supposed to be on leave,” she said.

The Board of the National Military Family Advocacy Organization, a nonprofit focusing on protecting and seeking out justice for military families, said the lingering potential of a November shutdown still affects military families.

“The young servicemen and women who live paycheck to paycheck would be directly impacted and unable to survive until they receive their paychecks,” the board said in an email.

Often overlooked are military families that are victims of domestic violence and abuse who rely on alimony and child support could be gravely impacted by the looming shutdown. Service members often exploit the shutdown to avoid court-ordered payments, the board’s email said. 

According to McCarthy, this stop-gap legislation takes care of 70% of the budget, and the House started work today to pass fiscal 2024 spending legislation.

Katherine Hapgood

I am a fellow at the Center for Public Integrity and a graduate student at American University studying investigative journalism and public affairs. This semester, I am covering the neighborhoods of Foggy Bottom and the West End. I primarily cover government access, accountability, and report on equity.

Daniela Lobo

Daniela Lobo currently covers the Cleveland Park and Cathedral Heights neighborhoods. Prior to The Wash, she worked as a content producer at NBC10 Boston and Telemundo Nueva Inglaterra. Daniela is currently pursuing her masters's degree in journalism and public affairs at American University.

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