Shutdown Stories: Kaine, Warner meet with families missing their paychecks

Brian Uholik talks with Sen. Kaine and Sen. Warner while he holds his 7-week-old daughter, Wynnie. (ABC7)

On the day of the first missed paycheck for many of the federal employees impacted by the government shutdown, Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine held a roundtable discussion with some of those workers in Alexandria.

Among those in the crowd was Brian Uholik, who works as a trial attorney at the Department of Justice.

Uholik said he joined the DOJ two years ago from private practice because he wanted to work in public service and serve something greater than himself.

"Now, I've been put in an unenviable position. I'm here with my wife Jamie and our seven-week-old daughter, Wynnie," said Uholik. "As you can imagine, having a daughter that's seven weeks old and not knowing when your next paycheck is coming is a little stressful."

And Uholik says money isn't his only concern. While picking up a recent prescription for his daughter, he says the pharmacy told him Wynnie wasn't listed on his federal insurance plan.

"Then I called my insurance provider and they said you need to talk to your Human Resources department, your HR needs to forward documentation to us in order to get your daughter on the plan so you can pick up the medication," he said. "But obviously because our HR team is furloughed, that couldn't happen."

Uholik said he had to spend several days jumping through hoops and providing additional documentation in order to ensure that his daughter was covered under his insurance plan.

But the experience only added to his stress, and made him worried for families of other furloughed federal employees who might find themselves in similar situations.

"It's just very frustrating to effectively be told that a policy initiative is more important that putting food on my daughter's table or clothes on her back or a roof over her head," he said. "We bought a house here in Alexandria back in August. The mortgage payment is due at the end of the month, and I'm pretty sure we'll be fine making that payment, but I don't know what happens down the road."

It's one of many emotional shutdown stories that were shared during Friday's roundtable discussion, Day 21 of the government shutdown.

"I just wish that Donald Trump or someone from his administration could've been in this room and listened to your stories," said Senator Warner. "The only thing we can tell you is that we're going to do all that we can to keep pressing."

This shutdown stalemate is now guaranteed to be the longest in history, as Congress has adjourned for the weekend with no deal in sight.

Senator Kaine said his gut tells him next week will be pivotal.

“I think frankly today being a no paycheck day and tomorrow it will become the longest shutdown in history, and with our colleagues all back home this weekend and hearing from their folks, I think next week can be pivotal in this,” Senator Kaine told the crowd gathered in Alexandria. “You sharing your stories is impressive, and your commitment to serving is impressive.”

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