Imagine missing a paycheck. Imagine having to ask your landlord or utility providers to cut you a little slack on this month’s bills. Imagine yourself unsure of how you’ll pay for groceries this week or child care next week.

This isn’t an uncommon situation for many individuals in our country. Economic uncertainty presents a real problem for a larger portion of our population than most realize. 

Now, our country’s elected officials have added additional stress — avoidable stress — to the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans by either forcing them to work without pay or delaying their paychecks due to a partial government shutdown that began Dec. 22. 

Social media comments insult and diminish the hard work federal employees contribute to our society every day. Some suggest federal employees should save for situations like this. Sure, that’s great for the federal employees who can afford it, but not all federal employees are depositing six figures each year. Is a single-parent earner truly expected to save pay from a barely-covering-the-bills income in case the federal government fails them?

Other comments suggest child care shouldn’t be an issue; after all, furloughed federal workers can be home with their children. But if you have children, you know that usually you pay for your child to have a spot at a child care facility, whether you use it or not doesn’t affect the cost.

Rather than blaming and belittling the work of federal employees across the country, we should hold our elected officials accountable. Why has it become the norm to reach Dec. 31 without a budget? The federal fiscal year begins in October. Why wasn’t the budget — the entire budget — approved in the summer or fall, before the new fiscal year begins?

Elected officials have turned our country’s future into a game of brinkmanship, postponing hard decisions until the stakes are so high that finger-pointing becomes the task of the day rather than governing. Save your bickering; pass a budget. Do your job.