As America's longest government shutdown drags on, putting a strain on hundreds of thousands of federal workers in the process, it's no surprise that Melania Trump's office is affected, too. The government shutdown, which has left some 800,000 government workers without their paychecks, has also cut Melania's 10-member team down to five, according to her communications director, Stephanie Grisham, who spoke with The Washington Post on Wednesday.
The shutdown has also put a pause on some White House activities of the first lady's office. According to aides who spoke with The Post, White House tours, which Melania's office oversees, have been halted during the government shutdown.
Melania herself has yet to hold a public event this year, though Grisham told The Post that the first lady was focused on her anti-bullying Be Best campaign. In her email to The Post, Grisham stated, "We are in the planning phase for 2019 in terms of 'Be Best' and annual functions at the White House." The first lady was reportedly "using this time for meetings and planning/strategy sessions," according to Grisham.
As President Donald Trump continues to maintain his demand for border wall funding in a federal budget, and Democrats continue to disagree with the president, the government shutdown appears to have no end in sight. And its effect on the White House residence staff, which takes care of the first family's needs in the place, is clear. The Post called the reduced White House residence staff a "skeleton crew," which is the bare minimum number of employees required to effectively run an office's most important operations.
The publication reported that it reviewed a shutdown memo from the Office of Management and Budget about the total number of furloughed employees at the White House.
Only 21 out of the 79 residence employees are taking care of the White House's maintenance, according to the memo. The report did not specify if these working employees, along with the furloughed ones, were being paid at all. Bustle has reached out to the White House for comment, and will update accordingly.
It's not just the first lady's staff that has been put on leave. Due to the government shutdown, White House chefs have also been furloughed, and the effect of their absence was clear on Monday: When college football champions Clemson University Tigers visited the White House on Trump's invitation, the young athletes were presented with a table of burgers, fries, and more from fast food joints instead of meals prepared by White House cooks.
The peculiar sight sparked a storm on social media, though it also led to invitations to other, perhaps more lavish dinners. On Tuesday, the co-owner of the famous Michelin-rated Alinea restaurant, Nick Kokonas, invited the Clemson Tigers to his critically-reviewed establishment for a feast.
Running the White House, in purely technical terms, requires a lot of effort and money. A team of engineers, cooks, florists, plumbers, butlers, ushers, security guards, and more carry the weight of running this particular residence.
If their absence continues under this partial government shutdown, it's hard to imagine the White House running as smoothly.