Government Workers Voice Their Frustrations As They Struggle During Shutdown Federal workers and their families are fed up with their paychecks being held hostage in the border wall argument. Several are speaking out about their struggles to pay their bills.
NPR logo

Government Workers Voice Their Frustrations As They Struggle During Shutdown

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/681442469/681442470" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Government Workers Voice Their Frustrations As They Struggle During Shutdown

Government Workers Voice Their Frustrations As They Struggle During Shutdown

Government Workers Voice Their Frustrations As They Struggle During Shutdown

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/681442469/681442470" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Federal workers and their families are fed up with their paychecks being held hostage in the border wall argument. Several are speaking out about their struggles to pay their bills.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In December, President Trump said he would shut down the government if Democrats did not agree to fund his border wall.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am proud to shut down the government for border security.

CORNISH: And 11 days into that shutdown, government workers are anxious and fed up. Wendy Cyprus, whose husband has worked for the Justice Department for more than 20 years, has a message for the president.

WENDY CYPRUS: That is just petty. Like, who turns their back on the people that work for the government?

CORNISH: And many of those people working for the government have felt shamed for not having a bigger financial cushion.

ERIN ROBERTS: People were saying shameful things about we should have a certain amount saved.

CORNISH: That's Erin Roberts in California. Her wife is a recruiter for the Coast Guard, which is not protected from pay freezes during a shutdown. Robert says they got a one-time emergency payment this week, but...

ROBERTS: There's still the threat of not getting paid on the 15.

CORNISH: And the stress stretches from coast to coast.

SARAH WATTERSON: I think a lot of people think, oh, the federal government shut down, that's just Washington - and it's really not.

CORNISH: Sarah Watterson (ph) is the local president for the American Federation of Government Employees in Lenexa, Kan. She says there are restrictions for federal workers looking for extra income.

WATTERSON: You can't do certain jobs if it's connected to what you do for the federal government. It's a violation of ethics.

CORNISH: That's really hard for workers in certain departments like science or medicine.

WATTERSON: It's a very distinct skill set, and it's kind of a small world.

CORNISH: Chris Wall works for the Environmental Protection Agency in Honolulu. He says he's sick of federal workers being used as a political bargaining tool.

CHRIS WALL: It just feels like a kick in the face every time, like we don't matter or something.

CORNISH: Last week, the Office of Personnel Management circulated a letter with tips for federal workers who couldn't pay rent or bills. Tyler Dayne, a government program analyst here in Washington, found it unhelpful.

TYLER DAYNE: It was kind of shocking to see, like, you should offer to trade services to your landlord when it's like, I have a job to pay my rent, and it's working for the federal government.

CORNISH: Dayne says she doesn't have a lot of financial options.

DAYNE: I would have to use credit cards probably or, like, ask family members.

CORNISH: Watterson says there's a feeling of being abandoned in the federal workforce right now.

WATTERSON: To have to go and beg for mercy is kind of insulting.

CORNISH: Congress gets back to work on January 3. Without any kind of deal before then, it will be Day 13 of the government shutdown.

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.