For Judy Tatro, the government shutdown has already hit hard, but she knows that her coworkers have been, and will be, hit harder.
“I have five employees with severe disabilities that are employed with me, and it’s me and my assistant. I’ve already lost one member of my team ... he was about to lose his truck and his apartment, so he went to work for a different company,” said Tatro, a Holly Springs resident who serves as a project manager as part of the Marietta-based Tommy Nobis Center’s contract with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The local nonprofit helps individuals with disabilities enter or return to employment, but on Thursday, Tommy Nobis Center officials put out a call for the public to help more than two dozen of its “teammates” that have been unable to work on two of its initiatives, establishing a GoFundMe fundraiser titled “People with Disabilities Impacted by Gov. Shutdown.”
“Part of what Tommy Nobis Center does is we have something called Nobis Enterprises, and it is our government fulfillment division — we execute federal contracts all around the country, we’re in 20 states,” said Dale Ward, president and CEO of the Tommy Nobis Center. “The two contracts that are impacted by the government shutdown are our HUD (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) contract and our teammates who work on the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) contract, which is here locally in downtown Atlanta. From those contracts, we’re essentially a vendor for the government.”
The fundraising campaign aims to replace the lost wages of 28 workers, who so far have lost almost $90,000. Friday would have been a payday for the affected workers.
But as they are essentially classified as vendors or contractors, Ward said, those affected will not be eligible for back payment, making the charitable effort crucial even as federal officials announced Friday an impending end to the work stoppage.
“It’s been a month now. Our teammates — 23 of the 28 have disabilities — and they have no revenue, no income, no money to pay their bills, so we’re trying to do something to help them sustain themselves while the shutdown’s taking place,” Ward said.
In Tatro’s case, the shutdown has not cost her her home, but rather, a new home.
“I had a contract on a house, and because of the furlough, my home loan company wouldn’t let my loan go through, so I lost the house ... My house hasn’t sold yet, so I couldn’t go ahead and buy the other one — I was pre-approved before the furlough, but not after,” she said. “I have a husband that makes OK money, so it’s not as hard (of an impact), and we just finished paying off our other house in November, so it’s not impacting me as badly as it is my team — they live week-to-week on their paycheck.”
And though an end to the political stalemate may ultimately allow some of her employees to return to their roles in the mailroom, supply room and as general laborers, Tatro knows the weeks without steady pay have taken their toll on a population that faces challenges in the workforce even when the federal government is up and running.
“There’s a 70 percent unemployment rate for people with disabilities. And every time I lose one or they’re without pay, that just adds to that unemployment rate,” she said. “I’ve got two VA vets on my team, I’ve got other people who are not but are still severely disabled, and it puts a hurt on everybody really quickly.”