‘It’s the last resort’: government employees turn to GoFundMe for help | US news | The Guardian

‘It’s the last resort’: government employees turn to GoFundMe for help | US news | The Guardian

About 1,000 campaigns on the crowdfunding site, seeking to cover daily necessities, have raised about $100,000 in total

About 1,000 campaigns on the crowdfunding site, seeking to cover daily necessities, have raised about $100,000 in total

People affected by the government shutdown have established approximately 1,000 fundraisers on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe to help cover their expenses, a spokeswoman for the company said on Wednesday.

The campaigns, often seeking a few hundred to thousands of dollars to cover necessities such as rent, groceries and utilities, have raised about $100,000 altogether – or an average of just $100 each.

GoFundMe has become an ad hoc social safety net for millions of Americans seeking assistance with essentials, from housing to healthcare. If Instagram is where Americans construct a fantasy version of their lives, GoFundMe is where reality reasserts itself. For many of the 800,000 federal employees who have either been furloughed or forced to work without pay since 22 December, their reality is increasingly one of desperation. Those workers have missed out on $1.4bn in wages each week of the shutdown, according to an analysis by the Washington Post, pushing those who live paycheck to paycheck to the brink of disaster.

“It’s the last resort,” said Brandon Taijeron, a corrections officer who has been working without pay for the Bureau of Prisons since the shutdown began. “I don’t usually go to the public, but that’s how bad the government shutdown is affecting federal workers.”

Taijeron said that he set up his GoFundMe page in the early hours of Wednesday morning. He has already missed a payment on his car, and is worried about keeping food in the refrigerator and gas in the tank. “You can’t really sleep, just wondering if it’s going to get better,” the 23-year-old said by phone. He posted a photo of his wife and five-month-old son on the page, and set a goal of raising $1,500.

GoFundMe page for Brandon Taijeron, a government worker affected by the shutdown.

GoFundMe page for Brandon Taijeron, a government worker affected by the shutdown. Photograph: The Guardian

So far, he has raised $115.

Another shutdown fundraiser, for federal contractor Sammie Ward, is seeking $3,500.

“It’s pretty embarrassing, but you have to do what you have to do,” Ward said of her appeal for assistance, the first she has ever made on the internet. “Thank goodness I don’t have a family. It’s just me and my dog.”

Ward was able to pay her rent and car insurance for the month, she said, but is struggling to cover other expenses, including her utilities, cellphone and car payment. The 58-year-old said that she had been working for the government since 2002, and has been in her current position as a contractor for the US Coast Guard for three years.

“I’m looking for work in the private sector,” she said. “I think this is the fourth time I’ve been furloughed. I think for me this is it.”

Meanwhile, “We The People Will Fund The Wall”, a viral GoFundMe page established by air force veteran and motivational speaker Brian Kolfage in late December, is approaching $20m (of a stated goal of $1bn) from more than 330,000 donations. The constantly updating ticker of small-dollar donations on the GoFundMe page reveals the dedication of the minority of Americans who continue to support Donald Trump’s vision of a wall on the US-Mexico border.

It’s a troubling diptych of societal disfunction, all contained within a site that serves as a catalog of catastrophe – even when the government is functioning.

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