Furloughed Federal Worker

Friday, Kristy Demas, a furloughed federal worker, showed WDRB News a mostly bare fridge in her Memphis, Ind., home. She said , over the past week, she's sustained herself on a gallon of milk, a pack of hotdogs, canned ravioli and a 99-cents pack of bologna. (WDRB Photo)

MEMPHIS, Ind. (WDRB) -- Inside her dark, quiet Memphis home, Kristy Demas has had enough.

As the government shutdown neared an historic length Friday, Demas changed the channel from the news to something more uplifting: a gruesome crime documentary.

"Look, I've just sat here and picked the skin right off my finger. I got myself nervous," she said as she watched TV. "Yeah, and that's sad. The news has been on my TV every day for three weeks, and I needed a break."

Demas is a statistical clerk with the U.S. Census Bureau's National Processing Center in Jeffersonville, where all 1,700 workers aren't getting paid and more than half, like Demas, are furloughed.

"I was still one of those that were like, 'Oh, we're not going to shut down,'" she said. "And then, I was like, 'OK, if we do, it's only going to last a day or two.'"

Demas said her hope officially died this week when leaders in Washington failed to reach and deal and as she pondered future weeks of financial hardship.

"I make about $44,000, and that sounds like a lot, but it's not," she said.

Friday would have normally been pay day at the Census Bureau and at other federal offices across the nation, but Demas and the others know a check isn't coming, and she has no savings to alleviate that sudden loss of income.

"I have zero, and I'm not ashamed to say that," she said. "I'm facing a huge burden. I don't know how I'm going to pay my electric bill, my water bill, my car insurance, my rent."

Now, even eating requires strict budgeting and a lot of restraint. On Friday night, she opened her fridge to show off a few items but even more empty space.

"Luckily, they were having a pretty good sale at Kroger when I went last week to pick up some items," she said. "I did get bologna. I've been eating bologna sandwiches, so I do have that."

But there's something more worrying to Demas: buying medicine to fight a relatively new affliction.

"I have cancer," she said bluntly. "It's not something that I wanted to broadcast to everyone."

It's stage two ovarian cancer she feels she won't be able to fully treat, even with insurance, without a regular paycheck.

"It's disgusting," Demas said. "I mean, it's such a sick feeling, and there's no reason for this. There's no reason we should be held hostage by Washington, D.C."

While she's not looking for a handout or pity from those in her community, she wants her neighbors and others to know one thing: what she's experiencing isn't a fun paid vacation that she can quickly remedy by finding a new job. Demas, who's also disabled, believes finding a new job would be tough, if not impossible, with her age, disability and predicament.

"I have a full-time job," she said. "I shouldn't have to go somewhere and look for another job. I just shouldn't."

Demas said her life, for now, is an uncertain hell that only intensifies as the shutdown lingers.

"I'm not trying to be mean about it," she said. "I'm not saying we don't need border security. I'm not saying that at all, but I don't see how holding 800,000 of us hostage is going to help."

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