Federal Employees Put on Leave or Forced to Work Without Pay During the Shutdown
By Taryn Womack, Intern
Starting the 22nd of December, President Donald Trump pushed the United States government into a shutdown over funding for his border wall. While many people support this decision and believe it is the right thing to do in order to get increased security along the Mexican border, they don’t realize the major consequences of shutting down the government.
As we continue into the longest government shutdown in our history, over 800,000 federal employees are going without another paycheck. Employees are being forced to work without any promise of pay and there seemed to be no end in sight. The departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation and Treasury are all affected by the shutdown.
Workers who are “deemed essential” are forced to work without pay while other “non-essential workers” are furloughed or put on temporary leave (Al Jazeera). Workers have begun suing the government claiming involuntary servitude for the forced unpaid labor and calling it inhumane.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has closed many of its departments. This has caused a lot of panic among the American population as they worry whether or not they’re going to get their tax refunds, but the IRS has confirmed that refunds will still be issued, but at a slower pace. It might take even longer because many employees have been calling in sick due to their unpaid wages. (Paquette et al).
With Homeland Security affected as well, there is a pause on tens of thousands of immigration cases. Because of the shutdown, anyone who wants to come into the country legally won’t be able to. Jason Hopkins of The Daily Caller says there are approximately 43,000 immigration court hearing cancellations. The situation is only exacerbating, with another 20,000 additional cases expected to be canceled for every week the government doesn’t resume normal operations.
Roads and wildlife are also getting left behind as workers are put on leave. Since they aren’t seen as “essential,” those who pick up trash in the parks, plough roads, or work at zoos and museums were given leave and it has affected the places they work. There are people who can’t get emergency care because the roads hadn’t been ploughed. Parks, zoos, and museums are closed to the public because there is no one working them. Trash is overflowing and piling up at national and public parks and if it continues, it can become environmentally destructive.
Another department that closed down was the FDA. From the beginning of the shutdown, to the 15th of January, there was no one inspecting the food or drugs going out to the public. While they may have been forced back to work after being furloughed, they still remain unpaid.
Transportation workers are working without pay or not working at all. According to Governing, Daniel Vock says “Most of the employees with the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Transit Administration, as well as safety inspectors, have been furloughed. But airport safety screeners who work for the Transportation Safety Administration must continue to work, even though they aren’t getting paid.” With this, commutes have become harder for those who have to travel from city to city. Along with that, about ten percent of TSA workers have called in sick because they haven’t been paid.
All of these employees, all 800,000 of them, have had to find other means of money and food. Many of them have had to go to food banks to feed their families. Parts of their insurance, like dental, have been cut and they can no longer get coverage for it.
On January 25th, President Trump temporarily ended the shutdown. With this Federal workers will be receiving back-pay for the two missed paychecks, but it could take days before they see anything. Many are hoping to see a paycheck the first week of February. With the temporary lift of the shutdown, it takes a lot of stress off of the 800,000 people that it affected, but it is still worrisome if the shutdown were to be reinstated.