Thu October 3, 2013
CDC Hampered By Government Shutdown
The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the government shutdown is taking a toll on its work, causing a potential risk to the nation’s health.
CDC spokeswoman Barbara Reynolds says three days into the government shut down, the vast majority of the center’s programs have been shuttered.
“We have world-renowned scientists who have been told they can’t read their email, can’t answer their phone, can’t boot up their laptop,” Reynolds says.
Reynolds says about 9,000 CDC employees nationwide have been furloughed, around 6,000 of which are in the Atlanta area.
There are some people working in CDC offices nationwide and in Atlanta that aren’t affected by the furloughs. Reynolds says they’re part of the Commissioned Corp., a federal uniformed service of doctors and scientists paid out of federal coffers not affected by the shutdown.
Reynolds says with the bare-bones staff, the CDC’s ability to research and prevent emerging diseases is hampered.
“Those are important programs that help protect Americans and keep them safe and we’re not being able to do that because the immediate threat is not apparent,” Reynolds says.
She says most at risk is the center’s ability to detect and research food-borne diseases.
“We have a patchwork of surveillance doing disease detection across the country, and that patchwork has great big holes in it,” Reynolds says.
Alison, who declined to give her last name, is a furloughed CDC employee who works in the policy department.
“For my colleagues as well as myself, you feel insulted. You try to work really hard; you try to keep Americans safe,” Alison says.
She says on a personal and professional level, the shutdown has her on edge.
“I’m the bread winner for my family, so I’m the only paycheck we have,” Alison says. “So I don’t know how long it’s going to last, how I’m going to get my bills paid.”
Alison’s husband doesn’t work, and the two have a daughter in second grade.
Alison says she’s not sure whether she’ll receive a paycheck covering her work through Sept. 20. She says her family fell into debt during the recession and is still trying to climb out, and she’s not sure how long her family can go without a paycheck.
“I worked in the nonprofit world for a long time. I didn’t have a pension, didn’t have a lot of savings, so I’m not very deep in savings,” Alison says.
Alison says she’s using her spare time to find other work.