Shutdown side hustles: Workers selling personal possessions, starting businesses

"Me being upset is not going to make the government open any sooner."

January 16, 2019, 4:09 AM

Four weeks into the partial government shutdown, unpaid federal workers and contractors have started selling personal property, creating small businesses and spending more time with old friends.

Working for the Coast Guard was always Albert Waterford Jr.'s dream job. The disabled veteran enlisted for two decades and, after his retirement, went back to work for the service as a civilian. His wife, Kate Wells Waterford, is a small business owner who trains horses. For those in the Coast Guard, the furlough has affected them differently because service members in other branches of the U.S. military fall under the Defense Department, for which funding has been approved.

The Waterfords hoped to receive their normal three paychecks this week: one for Albert's retirement from the Coast Guard, one for his job as a civilian and an additional check for his disability from the Veterans Affairs. But because of the shutdown, the couple has started a "furlough sale" to supplement lost income -- selling saddles, halters, bridles and items on social media.

"I called it a furlough [sale] because it is more of an urgency now," Kate Waterford said. "It's really made us re-evaluate our whole lives."

They were able to sell a horse trailer a few days ago and she was already trying to sell a horse before the shutdown began. But as the shutdown has entered the fourth week, the couple told ABC News she'll make a deal with the first person who makes a reasonable offer.

If the shutdown continues, the Waterfords will make more changes. Albert said he'll try to get a job, possibly delivering pizzas. Kate Waterford said she'll sell her personal horse, Portia.

For some, the furlough has inspired new ideas and a new urgency to reinvest in existing businesses.

PHOTO:John T. Deal is pictured in this undated photo.
John T. Deal is pictured in this undated photo.
John T. Deal

For John Deal, the furlough has meant he and his wife, both NASA contractors, are out of work without pay.

Deal has owned a heating-and-cooling company for the past 25 years, but before the shutdown it was a part-time gig. Now it's his main source of income. But after Christmas, Deal said the demand for residential work tends to idle.

"Nobody wants to spend money after the holiday, so [it's] kind of slow this time of the year," he said.

Becky Brown, a lawyer at the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, has been keeping busy throughout the shutdown.

She serves on the board of directors for the non-profit organization The Friends of Theodore Roosevelt Island, which works to support the National Park Service to preserve and protect the green space on the Potomac River between Virginia and Washington. Due to the four-week shutdown, National Park Service employees aren't working at the 91-acre island, so in an effort to help her favorite national park, Brown has aided with cleanup efforts.

PHOTO: Becky Brown cleaned up trash at Roosevelt Island National Park in Washington D.C.
Becky Brown cleaned up trash at Roosevelt Island National Park in Washington D.C.
Becky Brown

She recently spent time collecting and bagging trash. And then she had to re-bag the trash after local animals chewed through the bags. Brown also worked with local officials in Arlington, Virginia, to see that the bagged trash would be picked up.

"It's nice to have some way to help," Brown told ABC News.

She takes 5-mile walks daily with her 60-pound dog, Tazwell. The rescue dog who suffers from separation anxiety has loved the extra time with his owner, and for Brown, the extra walking helps her match the amount she would normally do for her daily work commute.

PHOTO: Becky Brown is pictured in this undated photo.
Becky Brown is pictured in this undated photo.

She's spent a lot of time re-connecting with friends, especially ones whose schedules normally would present conflicts with her own. Brown, who also enjoys cooking, hosted a dinner party with several friends -- all women -- to brainstorm about creative endeavors.

A few years ago, she found a creative outlet maintaining a food and cooking blog, "My Utensil Crock." And days before the furlough, Brown began coming up with ideas for another venture, creative greeting cards for government workers called "Federalisms."

"You are essential. I mean, to me. Not to the government," one example reads.

With the extra time Brown currently has, she's devoted her time -- working around the clock -- to launch the new line within weeks.

"I am an optimist, there's nothing I can do," she said. "Me being upset is not going to make the government open any sooner."

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