NEW YORK (Reuters) - About 1,000 furloughed federal workers have turned to online fundraising to help cover their expenses as a partial shutdown of the U.S. government drags on for nearly three weeks, a spokeswoman for GoFundMe.com said on Wednesday.
Some 800,000 federal employees have been ordered to stay home or work without pay because of the standoff between U.S. President Donald Trump and Congress over Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion (4.5 billion pounds) to build a wall on the southern U.S. border - a promise he made in his 2016 campaign that he said at the time would be paid for by Mexico.
The online fundraising pleas have raised over $100,000 in the last three weeks, according to GoFundMe spokeswoman Katherine Cichy.
Alphonzo Breland, an Internal Revenue Service employee in Oakley, California, told Reuters he has been losing sleep and trying to get a night job at a warehouse to cover his family’s expenses.
On Tuesday, he started a GoFundMe page with a goal of raising more than $2,500.
“My heart is always fluttering, my head is racing,” Breland, 41, said in a phone interview. “My mortgage is due now, I have until the 15th and then I get a late fee. I had to cancel the tuition deduction for my daughter’s school.”
Cichy said the company has a special team dedicated to reviewing all campaigns related to the government shutdown for potential fraud.
Most of the pages, created by people who say they are furloughed federal employees or their families, aimed to raise a few thousand dollars to cover expenses of military personnel and employees of shuttered agencies including the IRS and Transportation Security Agency.
“I was struggling financially even before the shutdown occurred, essentially living paycheck to paycheck, so having it happen at Christmastime was the worst possible scenario,” James Gass, who described himself as a single father of a 15-year-old who works for the Department of Agriculture in Massachusetts, wrote on his GoFundMe page.
Robert and Tristan, 14 and 12, wrote that they started a GoFundMe to help their mother, a federal employee in Seattle.
“My mom can’t get a second job because we are her second job,” they wrote.
Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Scott Malone and Phil Berlowitz