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US workers facing debt from last shutdown fear deal may collapse | News

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Washington, DC – Days away from another possible government shutdown, Maria can’t imagine facing another one.

The 43-year-old law clerk and mother of one spent the last month stressed, accumulating debt, and in search of “any and every” work possible to help keep her family afloat during the 35-day partial government shutdown that US President Donald Trump triggered in late December over spending for his border wall.

Maria, who asked that her surname be withheld, is one of an estimated 4.1 million government contractors and grantees in the country. Unlike the 800,000 federal government employees who were furloughed or required to work without pay and received back pay for the shutdown period, many contractor employees did not.

“It was very difficult at the time because everyone was looking for job,” she said to Al Jazeera. “I was looking for everything. Walking dog or anything. Really everything,” she added.

Maria lost $6,000 last month but considers herself “lucky” to have a husband who could support her. Unlike some contractors who told Al Jazeera they were laid off, Maria and her colleagues had a job to go back to after the shutdown ended. 

But during the closure, many had no savings to fall back on, and getting a loan also proved impossible, Maria said, adding that banks she approached were unwilling to approve loans to people who had no proof of income.

However, her bank agreed to scrap late payment fees for those affected by the shutdown as she continues to struggle to pay off debt that piled up over the 35 day shutdown period.

Filing for unemployment did not help either. By the time her claim was process, Trump agreed to reopen the government for three weeks to allow congressional negotiators time to find a compromise on government funding. 

As the previous shutdown dragged on, Maria said, some became lonely and depressed.

“Coming to work for some people becomes part of their life,” she said. “If you are single and don’t see people every day, it hurts,” she added. “People lost that human connection. I was trying to get in touch with people to make sure they were ok.”

‘With this president anything can happen’

Republican and Democratic negotiators hammered out a deal late on Monday, which reportedly includes some funding for “physical barriers”, but not the $5.7bn in funding for Trump’s border wall. 

On Tuesday, Trump said he wasn’t “happy” with the deal, but added that he doesn’t think there will be another shutdown. 

Still, Maria is worried that an deal could still collapse.

“We are just waiting to see what will happen,” she said. “But with this president anything can happen,” she added. “It can happen and he can do this over and over again.” 

Funding for a host of federal agencies is due to expire on Friday under the stopgap spending measure passed last month by Congress, meaning a deal needs to be signed by the president before the end of the week.

At work, Maria avoids the subject, like many others who spoke to Al Jazeera the idea of another shutdown has become “too upsetting” to discuss.

Seth Harris, a visiting professor at the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs and former acting Secretary of Labor under former President Barack Obama, said the uncertainty over another shutdown could affect federal workers’ productivity.

“You don’t want employees to feel distracted or spend time thinking about leaving or retiring prematurely – and all those are possible after a shutdown,” he said.

“I think worries about more shutdowns are not unreasonable,” Harris added. “One would hope that the president would have learned his lesson from other shutdowns and the complete failure of this shutdown as a political maneuver, but I am not persuaded that he has learned that lesson.”

A real struggle

Nicole Bryner, a federal employee and mother of two, said she was also worried.

When she and her colleagues returned to work on January 28, she said discussing how the effects of the shutdown was hard for many as it meant disclosing finances with colleagues. She said upon returning to work, people were relived but also angry. 

“It’s hard to speak to people in that way, it a strange vulnerability,” she said to Al Jazeera. “There are people really struggling,” she added. “We still feel there is a huge cloud over our heads, it’s hard to talk about it.”

Although Bryner received back pay, she did not count on it. Even though federal employees received back pay during previous shutdowns, she said “what was once precedent, might not be anymore” under the current political climate.

No one truly knows the impact of these shutdowns. It felt surreal that nobody else understood the urgency. It was super stressful for our family.

Nicole Bryner, federal employee

Following December’s shutdown, Bryner’s family had to stop putting money into certain savings accounts, including their children’s college-fund. They also halted charitable giving and resorted to discretionary spending.

“It was surreal, it was like being in a twilight zone,” she said. “No one truly knows the impact of these shutdowns,” she added. “It felt surreal that nobody else understood the urgency. It was super stressful for our family.”

For now, Bryner continues her work with two contingency plans: one if the shutdown goes into effect and another if it does not.

But outside of work, she is yet to recover financially and emotionally from the last closure as she continues to struggle to get her family life back to how it was before.

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Tiger-Cats claim victory against the Argos to maintain home record on Labour Day

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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were at their devastating best against the Toronto Argonauts when the two locked horns on Labour Day at the Tim Hortons Field.

Just like with previous Labour Day fixtures, the Ticats produced a stellar performance with Dane Evans throwing two touchdown passes while Frankie Williams scored on a 67-yard punt return as they claimed a 32-19 victory on Monday. With this vital win, the Ticats extended their Labour Day home record to 7-0.

For players and fans of the Tiger-Cats, games on Labour Day are a lot more special and losing is something the Ticats aren’t used to.

“We know the fans are going to be behind us, we know Toronto is going to be chippy, we know it’s going to be sunny; we know it’s going to be windy. Everything that happened (Monday) we prepared for. There is something extremely special about Tim Hortons Field on Labour Day . . . you can feel it in the air, I can’t put it into words,” said Evans.

After the COVID-19 induced hiatus, the CFL is back in full action and fans can now bet on their favourite teams and just like with online slots Canada, real money can be won. Hamilton (2-2) recorded its second straight win to move into a tie atop the CFL East Division standings with Montreal Alouettes (2-2). Also, the Ticats lead the overall Labour Day series with Toronto 36-13-1.

In the sun-drenched gathering of 15,000—the maximum allowed under Ontario government COVID-19 protocols—the fans loved every minute of this feisty game. After all, this was the Ticats first home game in 659 days, since their 36-16 East Division final win over Edmonton in November 2019.

The contest between the Ticats and Argos was certainly not bereft of emotions, typical of a Labour Day fixture, as it ended with an on-field melee. But the Argos often found themselves on the wrong end of the decisions with several penalty calls and most of the game’s explosive plays.

Hamilton quarterback Evans completed 21-of-29 passing for 248 yards and the two touchdowns while Toronto’s make-shift quarterback Arbuckle completed 18-of-32 attempts for 207 yards. Arbuckle also made a touchdown and two interceptions before eventually being substituted by McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Bethel-Thompson made an eight-yard TD pass to wide receiver Eric Rogers late in the final quarter of the game.

“They got after us a bit . . . we didn’t block, or pass protect well,” said Ryan Dinwiddie, rookie head coach of the Argos in a post-match interview. “They just kicked our butts; we’ve got to come back and be a better team next week.”

The Labour Day contest was the first of four fixtures this year between Toronto and Hamilton. The two teams would face off again on Friday at BMO Field. Afterwards, the Tim Hortons Field will play host to the Argonauts again on Oct. 11 with the regular-season finale scheduled for Nov. 12 in Toronto.

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Roughriders looking to bounce back after Labor Day defeat

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In what an unusual feeling for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they would now need to dust themselves up after a 23-8 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in what was a Labor Day Classic showdown in front of a full capacity crowd at Mosaic stadium.

Craig Dickenson, head coach of the Riders, witnessed his team with an unbeaten record get utterly dominated by a more superior team from Winnipeg. Now, he has got a lot of work on his hands getting his team back to winning ways as they visit the Banjo Bowl next.

“We’re going to see what we’re made of now…the jury’s out,” said Dickenson.

Dan Clark, who played centre for the Riders expressed his disappointment in losing what was “the biggest game of the year”.

 “If you lose every other game, you don’t want to lose that one. We’ve just got to take the next step,” said Clark in a report. “There are 12 steps to the Grey Cup left and it’s just about taking that next step and focusing on what Saturday will bring.”

With their first defeat to Winnipeg, the Riders (3-1) now rank second place in the CFL’s West Division, trailing the Bombers by one victory (4-1). However, the Riders will have the chance to even the season series during their trip to Winnipeg this Saturday. With the CFL heating up, fans can now enjoy online sports betting Canada as they look forward to their team’s victory.

The Rider’s offensive line will once again have a busy time dealing with the Blue Bombers’ defence.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo, who played one of the best games of his career two weeks earlier, had quite a stinker against the Bombers in the Labour Day Classic—which is the most anticipated game for Rider fans.

Fajardo had a 59 per cent completion percentage which wasn’t quite indicative of what the actual figure was considering he was at 50 per cent before going on a late drive in the final quarter with the Bombers already becoming laid back just to protect the win.

Fajardo also registered a personal worst when he threw three interceptions, but in all fairness, he was always swarmed by the Bomber’s defence.

While Fajardo has claimed responsibility for the loss and letting his teammates down, many would be curious to see how the team fares in their next game and with less than a week of preparation.

Dickenson is confident that his team would improve during their rematch in the 17th edition of the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg. The only challenge now would be the loss of home advantage and dealing with the noisy home crowd, he added.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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