Federal employees looking forward to paychecks, but concern remains

As President Donald Trump reached a deal to reopen the government, some furloughed workers across the United States are relieved, while others are not feeling quite optimistic yet.

“It would be nice to get a paycheck, but I don’t know if I like a temporary solution to a permanent problem,” said Joe Hill, a federal prison worker in Florence, Colorado.

Friday’s deal would soon return federal workers to their jobs, but it’s not immediately clear when are they going to get paid.

About 800,000 federal workers have gone two pay periods without a paycheck. Some had to take temporary jobs, sell their cars and take out thousands of dollars in loans.

“It’s about time, couldn’t be happier,” said Sheri Lohman, a federal worker in Colorado. “It makes everything much easier, I don’t have to continue working a part time job.”

Workers couldn’t see it ending

With no savings and bills piling up, Lynn Stratton took a temporary job for half her pay and had already tried to sell her car to stay afloat.

The federal employee in Ogden, Utah, was surprised to hear about the deal on Friday. Now she no longer has to sell her car.

“I didn’t think this thing was ever going to end,” she said.

Arrisia Sims, an agricultural specialist for Customs and Border Protection, said she was very grateful for the decision.

“All I can say is, praise the Lord,” Sims said. “I’m just — praise the Lord, I’m happy. I’m getting my paycheck, and that’s pretty much what comes to mind.”

Some are not ready to celebrate

Meanwhile, several Transportation Security Administration employees said it would still be hard for them to overcome the impacts of the shutdown.

“People’s lives have been damaged over nothing. People have lost careers. There’s people whose credit is messed up,” said Jamie Keys, a 14-year TSA employee at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

“All kinds of damage has been done. People can’t afford medicine. Yeah, we’re happy it’s over, but at what cost? We’re still let down either way,” she said.

J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, urged Congress to pass full-year appropriations and “act to prevent the use of shutdowns from ever occurring again.”

“While reopening the government is long overdue, I will not celebrate a temporary reprieve to a politically motivated crisis that has left many federal employees in anguish over how to pay their bills, feed their families, and keep a roof over their heads,” he said in a statement.

‘We are left to wonder’

The short-term measure has left employees wondering whether their paychecks will be in jeopardy again.

“We are left to wonder and worry for the next three weeks if we are going to go through this again,” said Jill Gilbert, a veteran and federal employee in Brazil, Indiana.

The 38-year-old and her husband, Charles, who are federal law enforcement officers, had been living on gift certificates from friends. They transferred their 5-year-old son Wyatt to a daycare that wouldn’t ask for payment until the shutdown ended.

In the next three weeks, Dante Biss-Grayson Halleck plans to pay his bills and also continue looking for a new job. He enjoys working as a safety officer for a federal hospital that serves tribal nations in New Mexico. It was his calling, but he is also his family’s breadwinner.

“Felt like another pawn, like we are still getting caught up in politics,” Halleck said of the temporary end to the shutdown.

Stann Kaplan, an enforcement analyst with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, had just received his first federal unemployment payment this week. Now, he will have to return it.

The 61-year-old was eligible to file a claim when the shutdown began in December but waited about two weeks because he thought workers would have to get paid at some point.

“I am a little worried (about future). But somehow I think cooler heads will prevail,” Kaplan said.

Clarification: An earlier version of this article indicated the Gilberts are federal corrections officers. While Charles has that job, his wife, Jill, works at the facility in another capacity. The article also has been updated to clarify details about the family’s daycare situation during their furlough.