The ongoing partial government shutdown, which is now America's longest one yet, has put furloughed federal workers between a rock and a hard place. To make ends meet in these tough times, federal workers have turned to GoFundMe, according to the crowdsourcing platform's spokesperson, Katherine Cichy, who spoke to CNN on Thursday.
More than 1,500 campaigns have been launched on the GoFundMe website, according to Cichy, where she said $300,000 had been raised by various government workers since the shutdown began on Dec. 22, 2018.
But the mere act of asking for donations on the website may land these workers in legal trouble as far as federal ethics laws are concerned, CNN reported. Bustle has reached out to GoFundMe for comment.
Under the "Bribery, Graft, and Conflicts of Interest" section of the United States Code, government workers are not allowed to seek additional income from any source other than their federal job as it could be viewed as a conflict of interest. And the penalty for such violation ranges from hefty fines up to $50,000 to five years behind bars, according to CNN.
But the shutdown has created exasperating circumstances for furloughed workers. Some have had to make increasingly difficult decisions to ensure that they can take care of their nutritional, medical, and other fundamental needs.
In one of the more worrisome instances since the shutdown began, a furloughed government worker from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who said she had diabetes, told CNN on Thursday that she rationed her insulin medication because "the thought of having more debt was scarier than the thought of dying" while she was asleep.
In states like Maryland, Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma, federal workers have filed for unemployment as they wait for their paychecks, the New York Times reported. WAMU reported on government employees moonlighting as the shutdown drags on, while some workers couldn't even afford basic items like diapers, per the Huffington Post.
These troubling cases are the result of a shutdown caused by a budget impasse between President Donald Trump and the Democrats. Doubling down on his aggressive stance against immigration, Trump has demanded $5 billion in a spending bill for a U.S.-Mexico border wall (construction that he once said Mexico would pay for), which Democrats have opposed.
It's clear that many Americans are unhappy about the situation on Capitol Hill, and many eye Trump as the source of this disarray and tension that has been taking place across the country. According to a poll by PBS NewsHour and Marist, most Americans blame Trump for the federal government partially freezing over.
Still, there may be some hope for federal workers who have asked for donations on GoFundMe. Walter Shaub, who previously worked as the director for the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, told CNN on Thursday that if the money is given out of sympathy, not because the person is a government employee, there is a chance these workers may not face legal repercussions.
People need to be given more information about federal ethics, Shaub said. He noted that the Office of Government Ethics should issue a clarification about the subject but that would be impossible at the moment since it is, like some other federal agencies, temporarily closed due to the shutdown.
"I feel so bad for these [federal workers]," Shaub said. "They're in such a tough position. My heart is with them, and I'd hate to see them get fired or worse."