Furloughed Forgotten

We’ve hit Day 28 of the partial Federal shutdown.

The moment the shutdown began, the media started talking about the 800,000 Federal employees who would be affected—either required to work or not allowed to work, both anticipating their next paychecks wouldn’t arrive on time (and they didn’t).

But in addition to those Federal employees whose lives have been disrupted, contractors are getting hit by the furlough as well. They garner an occasional mention in the news stories about government shutdowns.

But broadly there’s a limited awareness of the roles of contractors and how their affected by the the shutdown. You see this in comments such in the vein of, It sucks that feds aren’t getting paid right now, but they’ll get paid later.

Yes, Congress has already passed the bill to guarantee federal employees backpay. That does little to alleviate the financial and emotional tolls of today.

But that bill also does nothing for those who are contractors. In shutdowns past, many contractors have just had to take a loss. Their employers don’t get paid for the time, so often neither do the individual contractors. (In some locales, their employers can mandate use of PTO to cover compensation, but it depends on state and local laws—and that of course has other consequences.) This week Senator Tina Smith introduced a bill to get contractors backpay (at least for low-wage workers arguably hit hardest by the shutdown).

A lot of folks who aren’t US citizens or permanent residents work for the federal government—generally as contractors due to requirements for federal employment. They face another stressor in times of shutdown—visa status. Some employers continue paying their foreign workers in the US to continue fulfilling the visa requirements, money the firm hasn’t in the past been able to recoup. If the firm can’t afford/won’t cover the wages and the shutdown drags on another month, then many contractors’ visas will be out of status (unless they find employment elsewhere).

Federal contractors include a wide range of positions. Many of them are low-wage workers. The shutdown is devastating a lot of people’s lives. All because of a presidential tantrum and a submissive/cooperative GOP leadership.

Some thoughts on the short shutdown in 2018 remain largely relevant today:

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