Bennettsville federal prison worker struggling to take of care family during shutdown
BENNETTSVILLE, S.C. (WPDE) —
George Little, 32, lives in Rockingham, N.C. and drives 30 minutes every day to get to work to and from the Federal Correctional Institution Bennettsville (FCI). Little hasn't gotten paid since the shutdown started 31 days ago.
"The first night I woke up and I looked over to my phone and reached over to grab it and looked to see if there was a deposit and it was nothing there. And it was very heart wrenching. Two weeks I worked hard, made an honest living to get a check. And the harsh reality set in, 'How am I going to pay these bills? How am I going to take care of my family?' Because I'm the breadwinner; everyone looks to me," said Little.
Little isn't a furloughed federal employee and has to report to work. He said the shutdown is taking a toll on he and his fellow employees.
"To look at my fellow coworkers' face, and to hear them, the despair that's in their tones. Because they're family is looking to them. Because they're having to drive long distances to come to work, and it takes gas to do that," explained Little.
FCI Bennettsville employee's union representative Officer Specialist Clellan Tyson said they're all in a tough situation.
"Bottom line is we have a job today. We have inmates that we have to watch after. And the longer this goes on, the less staff we gone have in Bennettsville. I just thank God I have my head above water. Saved a little money along the way. Don't know how long that's gone last," said Tyson.
Tyson said when there's a reduced staff at the prison, it increases everyone else's workload. He added that it also has a direct impact on the inmates.
"You don't have enough staff to run the institution. You're talking about cutting inmate programs. You're talking about cutting recreation. You're talking about inmates that's going for their GED in school. We have re-entry programs where inmates are going to get out back in to the world. And they have to have jobs. And they have to have career developments and life skills. Life skills of what's going to take them to stay on the street. And if we don't have the staff to run the prisons, that diminishes all of that," explained Tyson.
Little said he never imagined the shutdown would last this long. He added his bills are mounting.
"You can't tell your bill collector that, 'Hey, we on a government shutdown. You got to hold on.' People that owe rent, the rent collectors aren't listening to that. They don't want to hear that, they want their money. People go to work, they want to be compensated. So, it's very hard. It's emotionally draining. And to keep a positive outlook, it's getting harder. The longer, each day that the institution, or the government, is shut down, the harder it becomes to fight forward and keep a positive outlook," said Little.
A Go Fund Me account has been set up to help Little and his family. As of Monday afternoon, he's at $3,062 of his $3,500 goal. The summary on the Go Fund Me account says, "George Little started his dream job as a federal worker in NC in 2012. He is no stranger when it comes to lending a hand. George has been the sole primary caregiver for his sister’s two sets of twins! This Friday, George woke up to no direct deposit after working long hours due to the government shutdown. He is currently driving 30-40 minutes one way to work, not to mention still having to provide for his niece and nephews as well. He was told that there will be NO hardships on his 401k.
George is such a humble guy! Prayers are needed for ALL families that have been affected by the government shutdown."
Little said he initially felt it demoralizing to ask people for help, but couldn't get around it.
"That was very, very hard to come to the realization that I had to ask someone for help. I had to ask someone and say, 'Hey, America. We're suffering here. My family is suffering here. Can you please help us?' I said to my friends that pride does not pay the bills and pride does not put food on the table for your family to eat."
Little said he's thankful for the donations on his family's behalf, but said that'll only help to catch him up on a few bills.
He's praying that the shutdown will end soon.
Tyson is encouraging people to call your congressional leaders to make them aware of how the shutdown is hurting families.
"We need the community. Not just people who work at FCI Bennettsville, we need our neighbors, people in Bennettsville. Pick up the phones. Call their congress and senators in Florence. That's what we need. Everybody picking up the phone, making phone calls asking them to open the government back up," said Tyson.