Federal shutdown hits Kansans

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Elaine Lewis sits at her writing desk Sunday, January 6, 2018. She published one book and is working on another to supplement her disability income. She's worried she'll lose her renters assistance if the federal government shutdown continues too long. Elaine Lewis sits at her writing desk Sunday, January 6, 2018. She published one book and is working on another to supplement her disability income. She's worried she'll lose her renters assistance if the federal government shutdown continues too long.
ARKANSAS CITY, Kan. (KAKE) -

Some Kansans say they're starting to feel the effects of the partial federal government shutdown, from shorted food stamp disbursements to stressing out over whether their rent will get paid this month.

"The first thing I did was call to see how my HUD rental assistance would be affected," said Elaine Lewis.

Elaine is on medical disability.  After years working for the local police department, heart, lung and kidney problems sidelined her.  She now relies on government assistance to pay her medical bills, her rent and to buy groceries.  Her tight budget is even tighter now, thanks to the shutdown.

"I would say it's always on my mind," she said.

Federal aid covers two-thirds of the cost of her her one bedroom apartment in Arkansas City.  That's something she's not sure she'll be getting after this month.

In some ways, the worry has taken over her life.

"I made a lot of phone calls.  I was on the phone for Medicaid and Social Security a total of four hours, most of that was hold," Elaine explained.  

The answers she got were a mixed bag that added up to 'We won't know until we know.'  That sort of uncertainty is something that's hard for a planner like Elaine to handle, especially when she has to be so careful about every dollar she spends.

"It tires a person to have to go through this kind of nonsense," Elaine said.  "We expect the government to be efficient.  We know they're not, but we don't expect it to get like this.  And then it makes more work for people down the line like this.  And I don't have that kind of stamina."

Especially when she has to be so careful about every dollar she spends.  Elaine has made arrangements with her landlord to temporarily lower her rent. 

"A wonderful landlord.  I have an awesome lady.  But it puts her finances in jeopardy.  This trickles from one person to another and this did not have to happen," she said.

Her family is pitching in to help cover what she can't. But this help will only be available for a couple months.  Elaine doesn't think she can survive beyond that, especially after getting a smaller than normal food stamp allotment this month.

"It's been cut $30 and I read today on the news sources that it may stop altogether," she said.

Now, she's worried if the shutdown continues for too long, she'll have to move out - out of her home for nearly 15 years and out of the state. 

"Every day I get up thinking, 'Oh, maybe it's going to quit today, things will get back to normal.'  And then you read there's more problems with it.  I'm not in a panic.  I am just certainly on heightened alert."

She has just one thing to say to Kansas lawmakers, the rest of Congress and the president. 

"Stop acting like kindergarteners who got their toy taken away cause they needed to go in from recess and sit down and think about the vulnerable folks like us." 

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