Federal Employees Moonlight To Pay The Bills As the partial government shutdown continues, some federal workers and contractors are looking for temporary jobs to earn income.
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Federal Employees Moonlight To Pay The Bills

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Federal Employees Moonlight To Pay The Bills

Federal Employees Moonlight To Pay The Bills

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Once in a while, this happens to people in the private sector - they're employed, but the paycheck doesn't come through, or it bounces. Money's getting tight. You may have to consider looking for temporary work to pay the bills. NPR's Jeff Brady reports that is exactly what is happening for federal workers as the partial government shutdown continues.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: Some of those unemployed federal workers are showing up on local TV.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KIM FIELDS: A Meridian man has spent nearly two decades working for the Forest Service. For the last 12 days...

BRADY: In Boise, Idaho, TV station KTVB talked to Chris Kirk.

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CHRIS KIRK: And getting on the Internet, looking for job opportunities, looking for...

BRADY: When he's not on furlough, Kirk administers contracts for the hundreds of millions of dollars the Forest Service spends on fighting wildfires. A local store owner saw that TV story and offered Kirk a temporary job.

KIRK: What I do is basically throw freight around, load boxes, unload boxes, stock shelves and work a cash register.

BRADY: Kirk says it's quite a change from his Forest Service job. And even though he's earning less than a quarter of his federal salary, he's thankful for the work and for his new employer's flexibility.

KIRK: As soon as the government shutdown ends, I have to drop whatever I'm doing and go back to work.

BRADY: In Florida, Dorothy Dearborn also administers contracts for the government but for the space agency NASA.

DOROTHY DEARBORN: I'm a single mom of three. I live paycheck to paycheck.

BRADY: Dearborn says she's using no-interest and low-interest credit cards to get by. And her family has offered help. Finding a temporary job has been difficult. She did apply to a restaurant.

DEARBORN: The first question they asked me - they said, you work for NASA? I said yes. They said, you're in furlough? I said yes. And they said, are you planning on going back? I said yes. They said, oh, we're not interested in - it's not going to work for us right now. We are only looking for people who are going to stay.

BRADY: That's a common problem federal workers say they're encountering. Still, a few have found creative ways around this problem.

FRANK RUOPOLI: My name is Frank Ruopoli. I work at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And I live in Charleston, S.C.

BRADY: Ruopoli is a graphic designer and illustrator. He's worked at NOAA for nearly 20 years, where he takes scientific data and puts it in forms the rest of us can understand. He says a 2013 furlough, which lasted 16 days, was hard on his family. After that, he developed a plan to be prepared for the next partial government shutdown.

RUOPOLI: What I decided to do is go and get my EMT certificate.

BRADY: Ruopoli says when he's working at NOAA, he volunteers as an emergency medical technician with a local rescue squad. Now that he's on furlough, he landed a part-time EMT job.

RUOPOLI: It's a lot of a medical transport. And what I mean by that is a lot of transporting patients from hospital to hospital. They are a backup for the 911 systems.

BRADY: Ruopoli says the new job helped ease the financial burden of this shutdown. Still, he's disappointed the country is in this position.

RUOPOLI: I feel a little betrayed by our politicians. You know, they take an oath of office to serve our country. And I do the same. I got into this many years ago. And I chose to, in a way, serve my country. And I expect the same out of my politicians.

BRADY: Ruopoli and the others interviewed for this story are careful to say their views are their own, not their agencies. Most also said they were uncomfortable speaking publicly, but given that this is now the longest partial shutdown in U.S. history, they hope doing so will encourage the president and Congress to resolve their differences. Jeff Brady, NPR News.

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