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Military families worry about possible government shutdown

By: Melissa Gundersen
EL PASO, Texas -- The country is counting down the hours until a possible government shutdown, which could cause economic turmoil throughout the nation.

Congress still hasn't come to an agreement on a budget, and if there is no compromise by midnight on Monday, legislators said everyone will feel the effects. Military families will be among the hardest hit.

Sonia Howard lives in West El Paso. She's a stay-at-home military wife and her husband works. The two support a 13-year-old daughter and Howard's mother.

"We are definitely depending on my husband's income and if that goes away, then what? What are we supposed to do?" asked Howard.

It's a question Howard has been asking herself in fear of a government shutdown.

"We haven't prepared for anything," said Howard.

If the government shuts down, all military families have been warned to save as much money possible. Officials said that while all checks scheduled to go out Tuesday are safe, checks that are scheduled to go out on Oct. 15 aren't. It all depends on Congress.

Things are expected to stay that way until Congress comes to an agreement on the budget.

"How are we to eat? How are we to pay our bills?" asked Howard.

Howard said her family can only sustain itself for about two months without pay. That's more than some veterans said they can handle.

"You're going to see people actually going down and applying for food stamps and things of that nature just to try and survive," said veteran John Ceballos.

Ceballos said many veterans heavily rely on government money.

If the government does shut down, officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs said veterans may also temporarily say goodbye to that income.

"That was one of the big topics of conversation this weekend. You know, a lot of people are concerned about it," said Ceballos.

Disability, retirement and other government checks are scheduled to go out Tuesday. Ceballos said that like active-duty checks, those are secure. But, he added, any checks after that could be in jeopardy, depending on Congress.

"There are no financial resources they can fall back on. They just stop the checks; they're not printed. They don't receive anything. So it can be disastrous for some families," said Ceballos.

According to Veterans Affairs, if a shutdown happens and continues until late October, it will run out of money for compensation and pension checks. That would affect more than 3.5 million veterans.

Tom Fullerton, an economics professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, said government shutdowns typically only last a few days. If that happens this time around, Fullerton said, things should be O.K. But how long a shutdown will last is unknown.

Howard calls the move a double standard, since Congress isn't expected to see any pay cuts.

"Yes, we signed up for the military to fight for our country, but yet when things go haywire, we are the first to get hit. Why is that? asked Howard.


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