For U.S. Bureau of Land Management employee Meggan Jensen, Christmas was marked more by anxiety than by holiday cheer.
Jensen, 38 and a single mother, is one of 280,000 federal workers nationwide furloughed since Dec. 15, after budget negotiations between the president and Congress broke down.
“The first thing I’ll do tomorrow is call all my creditors,” said Jensen on Monday as her 10-year-old daughter, Erin, lay on the living room floor drawing.
“I’d be really surprised if most people in my office were not doing that.”
The problem for the visual information specialist and other federal workers is twofold.
No one knows when - or even if - Clinton and Republican lawmakers will reach an agreement that lets the government return to action while discussions continue over unsigned appropriation bills.
And while workers now expect to be paid for the time they were furloughed, Jensen said she is worried Congress could take action to cut off funds.
Jensen, who moved into a new house a year ago, said she has no financial cushion to fall back on if paychecks stop coming.
She took steps to head off a potential problem this Christmas, making more presents than usual and carefully watching her spending.
But Jensen said those savings do not come close to paying the bills if her Jan. 4 paycheck is held up.
“For a lot of families there’s not much between having a home and being out on the street,” Jensen said. “This whole thing has made me realize how quickly things can get out of hand.”