See Trump's national address from Oval Office

President Donald Trump delivers a national address to make a case for funding for a border wall between the United States and Mexico as a partial government shutdown drags on.

Posted: Jan 9, 2019 2:41 PM
Updated: Jan 9, 2019 2:53 PM

When Dante Biss-Grayson Halleck, a veteran and federal employee, watched Tuesday night's address by President Trump and the Democratic response, he said he felt motivated. Motivated to hit the send button on new job applications.

Until recently, life seemed to be going according to plan for the 42-year-old.

After being honorably discharged from the military, he wanted to save lives and support underserved Native Americans. He fulfilled that calling, he said, with a job as a safety officer for a federal hospital that serves tribal nations in New Mexico. He and his wife just welcomed their second child, and he recently got a promotion.

But then on December 22 the government shut down, leaving he and 800,000 other federal workers hoping their next paycheck will come soon.

"Hope is not my plan," Halleck said.

Halleck is his family's breadwinner. He worries that, like him, other federal employees will begin to look for work in the private sector so they can continue to support their families.

"There are very few people who can live without a paycheck for months," he said. "If the shutdown lasts and people begin to quit, at-risk patients could suffer the ultimate consequence."

'We're like pawns'

In an address from the Oval Office Tuesday night, Trump appealed to Americans for a wall at the US-Mexico border, saying the country is facing a "humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border."

Trump has demanded Congress appropriate $5 billion to fund construction of the wall.

In the Democratic response, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the wall expensive and ineffective and said Trump is stalling the reopening of the government because of his "obsession" with it.

Although both speeches mentioned the desire to put federal employees back to work, Halleck said he heard only a political standstill.

"There was no solution in there and there was no reason to why these employees are being impacted by the wall," Halleck said. "We're like pawns in this whole game."

Halleck has just started to dip into his emergency funds, which he believes can last his family three months.

He was angry listening to both speeches and called them "a slap in the face to everybody that's doing a good service for this country."

"There was no thank you to the federal employees who are going to be living on rice and beans by Friday," Halleck said, only "underhanded jabs" by the two sides at each other.

'Who needs to deal with this kind of nonsense?'

Brad Williams, a federal information technology contractor, was more sympathetic to the Democratic response than the President's speech.

Williams, 46, of Hillsborough, North Carolina, may be in a better position than other workers. His contracting company allows him to convert vacation days to cash, and he has enough accrued to pay him for about two more weeks.

Still, the husband and father of two teenagers already is asking a former colleague about the availability of jobs outside the federal government.

"I'm networking. Because who needs to deal with this kind of nonsense?" Williams said Wednesday.

Williams says he is a political independent who used to be a registered Republican. He said he believes Trump wrongfully conflates a border wall with border security.

"The biggest difference between the two statements was that the response was all about solutions and working in a bipartisan manner to address not just border security, but also the other challenges that the country faces," Williams said.

Any argument by Trump that he'd want to bring federal employees and contractors back to work would ring hollow, Williams said, "because he could do that right now if he wanted to."

Another federal contract worker, Lila Johnson, said neither the President's address nor the shutdown makes sense to her.

The shutdown is keeping the 71-year-old Hagerstown, Maryland, resident from her contract janitorial job with the Department of Agriculture.

She receives a pension from a previous janitor job she retired from. But she says her pension and Social Security alone don't make ends meet, so she relies on the contract job.

"I think it's so wrong to put people out of work just for a wall," she said.

"People cannot afford to pay their bills or put food on the table to feed their family. ... The wall is not that important to shut people out of work."

The shutdown's consequences

As both parties hold their ground, Americans -- whether federal employees or not -- are seeing their lives and livelihoods affected.

Investigations of fatal accidents are on hold, TSA officers working without pay have had excessive absences and lifesaving treatments are seeing their FDA approvals delayed.

Meanwhile, ordinary citizens are stepping in to help out where they can.

Restaurants across the country are serving free meals to federal employees who are going unpaid.

And since the gates of some national parks were kept open in an unprecedented move, groups across the country have come together to keep them clean.

But even with the altruism of others, federal employees are still grappling with the loss of their income -- and the possibility that it isn't coming back any time soon.

"I've got to hunker down for three months," Halleck said. "This speech has definitely inspired me to hit the send button on the application."

Huntsville/Redstone
Mostly Cloudy
55° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 55°
Muscle Shoals
Partly Cloudy
57° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 57°
Huntsville/Madison
Cloudy
56° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 41°
Feels Like: 56°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 52°
Fort Payne
Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 44°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 488973

Reported Deaths: 9660
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson703321342
Mobile35725716
Madison32088437
Tuscaloosa23913404
Montgomery22369481
Shelby21714209
Baldwin19554263
Lee14827147
Morgan13529243
Etowah13091309
Calhoun13063281
Marshall11197202
Houston10019255
Limestone9303130
Elmore9283179
Cullman8856176
St. Clair8747214
Lauderdale8541209
DeKalb8419173
Talladega7424161
Walker6466240
Jackson6450101
Autauga614384
Blount6058125
Colbert5973118
Coffee522299
Dale4606106
Russell400530
Franklin396575
Covington3918105
Chilton380096
Escambia375970
Tallapoosa3533138
Clarke342348
Dallas3385139
Chambers3382102
Pike292471
Lawrence280685
Marion277492
Winston244563
Marengo243454
Bibb243259
Geneva238168
Pickens223453
Barbour208450
Hale208064
Fayette198755
Butler194865
Henry181741
Cherokee175737
Monroe165538
Randolph161240
Washington155832
Crenshaw143052
Clay142554
Macon140344
Cleburne136139
Lamar130632
Lowndes130148
Wilcox120525
Bullock116033
Conecuh106423
Perry104927
Sumter98231
Greene86732
Coosa86323
Choctaw54723
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 767315

Reported Deaths: 11198
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby863831451
Davidson80598835
Knox45139569
Hamilton39899450
Rutherford37781371
Williamson24944202
Sumner21120312
Montgomery17171207
Out of TN1659390
Wilson16157208
Unassigned15617126
Sullivan14142273
Blount13905176
Bradley12699137
Washington12659231
Maury12124158
Sevier11870160
Putnam10525167
Madison10030225
Robertson8866117
Hamblen7936160
Anderson7874155
Greene7251144
Tipton688699
Coffee6254114
Gibson6166140
Dickson6118103
Cumberland6070117
Carter5922152
McMinn585589
Roane579995
Bedford5744117
Loudon561464
Jefferson5569116
Lawrence554080
Warren529475
Monroe524988
Dyer5221100
Hawkins517092
Franklin469983
Fayette463571
Obion435694
Rhea411272
Lincoln409861
Cocke395691
Marshall387754
Cheatham385143
Campbell377458
Weakley377459
Giles370495
Henderson360673
Carroll346580
Hardeman337563
Macon334873
White333765
Hardin329562
Lauderdale308842
Henry298274
Marion289144
Wayne286330
Scott284842
Overton283257
Claiborne271665
Haywood264159
McNairy264151
Hickman262339
DeKalb261547
Smith252236
Grainger240446
Trousdale237722
Fentress228244
Morgan228236
Johnson214337
Chester200446
Bledsoe197910
Crockett196746
Unicoi179047
Cannon173528
Polk173221
Union168030
Lake167326
Grundy165730
Sequatchie153627
Decatur153135
Humphreys151121
Benton149939
Lewis145724
Meigs125420
Jackson124633
Stewart123024
Clay106030
Perry102327
Houston102030
Moore93616
Van Buren79120
Pickett74623
Hancock49212

Community Events