Government Shutdown Impacts University Alumni

January 22, 2019

The longest government shutdown in history has been going on for 32  days, with 800,000 people still out of work, including University of New Haven alumni.

Samantha Higgins graduated in 2016 with degrees in criminal justice victim service administration and psychology with a community clinical concentration. She works as a high-risk domestic violence and shelter advocate in Massachusetts.

“Personally, I feel my role, and the role of my colleagues, is vital to helping victim’s safely leave unsafe relationships,” said Higgins. “Without assistance and guidance to help victims know the resources available to them and to support them through court, housing search, and more many victims might not be able to find the help themselves after such an abusive and isolating relationship.”

Although Higgins’ organization is a partially-funded organization and remains open, her position is funded by a grant, and can be threatened if the shutdown continues. The grant for her position, and many of her co-workers, has not been renewed, and will not be renewed until the government is re-opened.

Karina Krul
Samantha Higgins, class of 2016 / Photo courtesy of Samantha Higgins

For Higgins, the government shutdown offers a dim future for her career focused on advocacy for domestic violence.

According to Higgins, domestic violence agencies around the country have had to limit resources, lay off workers, and even close their doors because of the shutdown. She also expressed concern that the Violence Against Women Act, which provides funding and resources to many domestic violence agencies, has expired and cannot be renewed while the government is shut down.

“The shutdown is directly impacting a victim’s ability to leave an abusive relationship,” said Higgins.

Higgins said she fears that more victims will remain with their abusers because of the lack of resources. She said the shelter she works at is full, and when she calls other shelters in the state, most of them are as well.

“To think that in a field where there already were not enough services there are less and less by the day due to the shut-down is directly impacting the safety of our citizens who are impacted by domestic violence,” said Higgins.

Matthew Neumeyer graduated in 2018 with degrees in biology and forensic science; he works as a laboratory technician working for Northstar Technology Corp., a government contracting agency. He is currently working for the Food and Drug Administration in New York.

Neumeyer says he is not allowed to work during a shutdown and because he is a contractor, he will not be reimbursed for the lost hours. According to New York laws, he is also unable to apply for unemployment during the shutdown. He has already begun looking for other jobs. He said he cannot go on without pay much longer.

Karina Krul
Matthew Neumeyer, class of 2018 / Photo courtesy of Matthew Neumeyer

“I want the shutdown to end,” said Neumeyer. “I don’t want to have to leave my FDA contract job and look for another job. However, if this shutdown goes on for weeks or months, I don’t really have much of a choice.”

Neumeyer said he believes the shutdown will not impact him in the long-term. However, he says he is worried about losing the lab skills he learned at school if he cannot find another job.

“This is about more than a wall,” said Higgins. “This is about a president who orders people, who aren’t financially stable like he is, to work without pay, for an undisclosed amount of time until he gets his way.”

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