Families squeezed by both LA teachers' strike and government shutdown struggle to make ends meet

A number of families are struggling with two missing paychecks.

January 16, 2019, 5:43 PM

For 26 days, furloughed U.S. government workers have been wondering when they will be able to work and get paid. For three days, Los Angeles public school teachers have been wondering the same. For a number of families, both uncertainties are a reality.

In families in which one partner works for the Los Angeles Unified School District and the other works for the federal government, the new year has started with two missing paychecks.

Xochilt Valdivia-Ford was well prepared to strike, she thought. The second-grade teacher at Montara Avenue Elementary School in South Gate, like the 30,000 other teachers currently on the picket line in Los Angeles knew the walkout was a possibility and knew what it could cost, she said.

"I have been preparing for the strike since last year. I was able to save the recommended three months' salary, so I felt confident that my family would not take a financial hit," Valdivia-Ford told ABC News in an email. "But my husband's income has been taken away."

Despite all of her planning and savings, the couple was not prepared for the shutdown. Her husband works for the Department of Justice and has been working without a paycheck for nearly four weeks.

The teachers, who work for the second largest public school district in the country, are striking to protest large class sizes, low salaries, and thin support staff, the union says. The two sides remain at an impasse, with the school district saying the money is not in the budget.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the president and Congress remain deadlocked over the building of a wall on the Mexican border, Trump's marquee campaign promise. In the balance is the funding of the government itself, but the impasse remains nearly where it was at the end of last year when the shutdown began.

"Government employees did not get a notice, so my savings have been cut into half. At this moment, with no income coming in, we cannot save. So now we have to prioritize what bills we should pay," Valdivia-Ford said.

PHOTO: Shannon Whitney is pictured with her husband Ben and their child in this undated family photo.
Shannon Whitney is pictured with her husband Ben and their child in this undated family photo.
Shannon Whitney

The Whitney family finds itself in a similar situation. Elementary school teacher Shannon Whitney's husband, Ben, works for the Department of Homeland Security, which remains unfunded. As a result, neither Whitney is getting paid.

"Goodness, we didn't want to strike but we have a nurse one day a week, we have a counselor one day a week, and we want it for our students, so we're going for it," Whitney told ABC News. "But it's been difficult with him being furloughed and not being paid."

The Whitneys say they can ask their families for help. Ben Whitney said he took out another credit card for emergencies.

"Right now, we've been holding through so far," he added.

But negotiations for both battles show little sign of ending soon.

"I am hoping for the shutdown to end soon because I will continue to strike until our students get the schools they deserve," Valdivia-Ford said. "As a California resident, with a strong economy, it is hard to understand why our students can't obtain a decent public education and mental health care. I am also hoping for our district and union to come to a compromise that students and parents can live with."

But these teachers say there's a difference between a strike and a shutdown.

"I am choosing to lose income for something righteous: improving and strengthening public education," Valdivia-Ford said. "The shutdown takes income from people like myself who will never support a wall."

ABC News' Romina Puga and Jennifer Watts contributed to this report.