Friday, April 8, 2011

What the government shut down means to us military overseas

With the government shut down happening in the next twelve hours unless a new bill gets signed into law I have seen a lot of panic. It's understandable that a lot of women, living alone in a foreign country with no family nearby would be concerned. When no one has officially explained what will happen to them it gets even worse. The only information circulating is poorly constructed explanations of things other wives have read online or seen on the news. Have you ever played the telephone game? Then you know what I'm talking about. There are so many people unwilling to look up the information themselves that they ask others what is happening and pretty soon the rumor is that we're going to be featured on the next episode of Survivor. At the bottom of this blog I will post links to helpful explanations about what this shut down may mean to you.

Here's what's got everyone in an uproar in Baumholder:

  • Our commissary has announced they will stay open until 8pm tonight as to accommodate anyone that hasn't been able to finish up their shopping yet. If the shut down occurs they will not reopen until the new bill is signed. Commissaries worldwide will be closed. (For those of you in the states, fear not. Wal-mart will still be open!) Basically this means mothers overseas will no longer be able to receive their WIC, and we will all have to do our shopping at the local German grocery store paying with Euro instead of dollars. Of course the exchange rate is extremely bad right now so something that costs 1 Euro will actually be costing you $1.48. (note, some items can be purchased cheaper if you are willing to look around and comparison shop)
  • Those of us on post don't have to worry about our rent or utilities but those off post still have German landlords to pay with no pay coming in. 
  • If the shutdown continues past the end of the month our allotments along with our regular pay will be withheld so bills that are normally automatically taken out of our checks will not be paid.

© Christopher King |
What can we do about it?

  • Don't panic. It's good to make a plan just in case but there is a small chance it may not even happen.
  • Buy items in bulk that you may not be able to find on the economy such as special baby formula, pasteurized milk, pull-ups, ect. Avoid stockpiling. Other people will be looking for those items as well.
  • If you are having trouble paying bills you can call creditors and explain the situation. Some banks will allow you to defer a payment. It helps to talk to them BEFORE you are late. You can also go talk to AER on post or to the chaplains. The local Credit Union here in Baumholder is approving 0% loans for 30 days to advance you pay based on your previous month's LES. 
  • If all else fails talk with your friends and neighbors. We are all going through the same thing and I know that if my neighbor really needed help I would do what I could.
  • Don't start rumors. It makes for more stress and panic among your community. 
  • If you haven't filed your taxes, still file, & file them electronically. The government will not be processing paper refunds until this is straightened out. Even though the IRS is shutting down they still expect us to file our taxes. (yes, its backwards, I agree.) There is a possibility that if you file electronically you may still get your refund.
  • I know we don't like to touch our savings but this is the time for it. It's better to take from savings than rack up interest charges on credit cards. If you dip into your savings account to make payments make sure you put the money back once we start receiving back pay. That savings is there for a reason and I would hate for it to be gone the next time you need it. 
  • Do not start selling everything you own because when this is over it's going to cost you twice as much to get back the items you need later. 
  • Just remember - active duty military - WE WILL GET PAID.... EVENTUALLY.

And for those of you who keep posting that if the military has to keep working with no pay, the congress and president shouldn't be paid either, I agree. But you should read this. Some of congress agrees with you as well. I have a growing respect for these two men.

© Mark Rasmussen |

Here are some links to help you with specific questions:

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