Federal Employees Reveal How They're Handling The Shutdown

Federal Employees Reveal How They're Handling The Shutdown
Photo by Chris Kleponis - Pool/Getty Images

The current government shutdown is the fourth longest in U.S. history, and there is no end in sight, despite assurances from Democrats that they will pass funding bills as soon as they take office. The inauguration of the 116th Congress last week marks the first time ever that a federal shutdown will extend into two different Congresses.

President Donald Trump has claimed he can "relate" to the plight of federal workers who are struggling to get by without their paychecks, but these stories provide a window into a world that couldn't be more foreign.


Excepted worker, but I'm only allowed to work on excepted activities. I have to consider whether every email/meeting/phone call/report/whatever is vital for national security, protects life or property, or is related to shutdown operations before I can do the thing.

Not a whole lot is happening.



I'm a government contractor and consider myself lucky to be in one of the agencies that are funded so I don't need to worry until September.

My company's policy is that when a shutdown occurs contractors either burn our PTO or are forced into unpaid leave. Which is what I had to deal with the last 2 shutdowns.

No one in my office is happy with the current situation even though we are unaffected.



As someone who lives in a town with a heavy National Park contingent and tourism influence (Jackson, Wyoming), the government shutdown always influences us more than most know. Even during the winter. It's tough.



Our sister agency that refers customers to us shut down mid-last week. We have funding and did not get shut down, but are entirely dependent on customer referrals. IT is furloughed and we are now at three computers that are blue-screened. We have a Wii in the break room and now play smash brothers because we can't go home and only one person has a working computer at this point. Other games include Guitar Hero III, a Call of Duty game, and a rally car racing game.



Still going to work, although my motivation is falling to 'malicious compliance', which means, I do only what is directly asked of me and nothing more.

Meaning, I sit next to the door, someone rings the doorbell. I later get asked, "did the doorbell ring?" My answer is yes. And that's it.



Government contractor here. I burned through through my PTO last week. My company was great enough to let me go in the hole and even gave each employee 16 hours PTO. so I'll get a full paycheck this week. I filed for unemployment today. Other than that it's been lots of time hanging out with my 5 year old. Mostly just bored and stressed.



Essential here. It is frustrating to go to work for an IOU but all in all I feel like I am one of the more fortunate ones and can probably float all the way until April or so before desperation sets in.

That said, it is incredibly irritating to see people that act as though this is something federal employees should just accept as being part of the job. Using people's livelihoods as a bargaining chip to push one's own political agenda is disgusting.

If this shutdown is like previous shutdowns, I could call in sick everyday and get paid after the shutdown AND not be charged the leave I took during the shutdown. I do not do this because I have a sense of duty to provide my essential services to the flying public. I just wish everyone at the top of the executive and legislative branches shared in this sense of duty.



People don't seem to understand that government is a chunk of an interconnected economy and any interruption has real big effects on everyone. Its not just federal employees, there are thousands of private companies and nonprofits that get a large percentage of income from government contracts and grants. Higher education? Local and state government? Millions of employees. Do you work for a construction company on a transportation project? You bet there's federal funding involved. Do you rent to Section 8 voucher holders? Are you a farmer seeking a government loan? A tour guide near a national monument? In a matter of weeks we'll see ripple effects on banking, technology, and retail. The longer this goes on the higher percentage of Americans will feel the effects.



I'm a full-time nursing student, part-time CNA living with my parents at well-below-market rent until graduation...and I'm currently the only earner in our household. It's stressful. Dad has the attitude that it'll all work out okay in the end since they do have savings and that they should be counting their blessings for that. Mom is more realistic/pessimistic and keeps accusing him of being a pollyanna with his head in the clouds. (It's worth noting that Mom handles the bills). The last time they argued this much was when my sister was about to flunk out of high school.

In short, there's a lot of uncertainty in the near-term, and it's straining relationships.



The shutdown, for me, has not been particularly good timing.

A few weeks prior to the shutdown, we put in an offer on a house that was accepted.

About one week before the shutdown, I set up 3 experiments with live specimens. Now they're all probably dead (I work with insects).

Personally, I've been trying to get things done, doctor's appointments and the like. If there's time, I'll try to konmari my clothes.



Just graduated in June and got my federal government job right after. Moved to a new state, essentially broke, just barely recovering from moving expenses and about to start paying off my massive student loans. The thought that this will last much longer and force me into further debt scares me but honestly the lack of work is what is getting to me the most. I absolutely love my job and I've always been the type to commit myself 100% to my main focus. Without that I've been wandering around my apartment, in a mostly unknown city where I haven't made any significant friendships with way to much time to think about every dark thought constant activity usually wards off. Also I bought a cheap ukele and have been learning a handful of songs so there's that.



Currently enjoying a planned vacation that I didn't have to use any leave for so that's a plus.

This following week I plan on ramping up my job search that I've only been able to put a mediocre effort towards while working full-time so also another plus.

As a newer and non-permanent employee, I don't have nearly as much invested in staying a federal worker as many of my co-workers. The shutdown is one thing but the freeze on the cost of living increase I find even more disrespectful and is the proverbial "straw that broke the camels back". Private job sector, here I come!



I keep telling myself that it'll get fixed soon. That maybe I'll fall behind only slightly, but in the end it'll be ok because we've danced this dance before and always bounced back. But this time with Trump, there is so much uncertainty that I just try not to think about it because if I did I'd be a wreck of nerves. We got this last paycheck, but once next payday comes and nothing gets deposited, shit will get real, super fast. I've already called my representatives, for all the good that's done.

In short, I'm worried, but not in panic mode. Yet. After 2 pay periods, I will be in panic mode.



I am currently being required to work without pay and it is horrible. I work for an agency that is tasked with law enforcement and morale is the lowest it has ever been. We do not have the manpower or resources to be able to effectively do our jobs and, on top of the stress of our work, we now have to worry about how make mortgage payments, bill payments, arrange for child care, pay student loan debt, etc. We are all angry and frustrated, and I can say with certainty that no one in my office supports this shut down, despite what Trump says.



I'm essential and rather pissed off because my vacation has been cancelled and now I have to go back to work. So I bust my ass off working OT constantly all year, I have my vacation time scheduled months in advance, theres coverage but for some reason all vacations were pulled. It doesn't make sense, so I'm forced to go to work while other workers get to stay home and will most likely get paid anyway. On the one hand at least I know I'm getting back pay unlike the non essentials but it still pisses me off that I can't use my leave that I earned while the govt is shutdown. Our agency also has guidance to screen call offs, which has never been done. And of course none of us are getting paid anytime soon so theres guys I work with who are going to be in trouble real soon if they don't get paid. On too of that I gotta read all the asshole comments from people not affected by the shutdown saying govt workers make too much. Like bro I'm just a regular guy like you trying to make the best life I can. It's all rather frustrating and I hope it ends soon so people can go back to having some stability in there lives.



I was supposed to start a job with a federal agency this coming Monday, but that obviously won't happen. I assume I will never get paid for the time between when I was supposed to start and when I actually do. I can't even talk to HR about it since they are on furlough. Financially I can handle it since my wife works, but the uncertainty is super frustrating.



Coast guard member here; we gotta show up and work regardless. The service is tremendously helpful, thanks to special conditions we were paid on the first but were told we most likely we won't be paid on the 15th. We're kinda the outlier branch because we are part of DHS and not DOD so it's frustrating not knowing what will happen.

USAA and other banks have set low interest loans for service members during this time with a 50/50 satisfaction because its 0.01 percent. Where in the past USAA would place the money in your account and just receive the money from the government after the shenanigans is settled. For the more financially stable members it's easy to go along with this but members who have kids or low ranking that go paycheck to paycheck may struggle.



Well, it's a great moment for some introspective thought. Like why am I risking my life for a government that gives zero f**ks about me? Why did I choose this path that is full of suck and sees me sleeping in an abandoned Russian theatre. What I'm I gonna do with my life when I finally get out of here? Will I ever get a retro check for these weeks of deployment during the shut down?

Oh you mean this shut down? Hahaha no, I peaced the f**k out of those gigs after learning my lesson the first time.

And the answer is no, I never got paid for those weeks, nor that entire 16 month period of my life that they took from me. Thanks Congress! Thumbs up!



Federal contractor, self-employed/sole-proprietor. I provide services to museums in the area.

It f**king sucks, I can't go to work because the museums are closed. I get paid hourly, so I'm not getting this pay back either. Thankfully I have enough in savings to hold me over. People sometimes forget about the self-employed contractors with shutdowns-- we usually get hit hard the most since we don't have retroactive pay or benefits through our clients. If it goes on for more than a month, I'll be looking for another line of work.



Essential employee here. Have an emergency fund so financially okay for a few months; however, honestly it still causes worry. Not knowing when your next paycheck will come forces you to reevaluate all purchases.

You also really have a dilemma when under the weather - come in sick or risk furlough hoping that they will backpay. Sure they always have, but times have changed so you don't think you can rely on it.

Not being able to take any time off is a pain. Any pre-approved leave was cancelled.

More concerned for some out there who are furloughed and generally lower paid. They miss a check and they will be in serious jeopardy.

For most people I think missing 2 checks would be the tipping point.



Research has grinded to a stand still. People are freaking out about their timelines for projects. Some people have to go back to square 1.

Even if this only last a few weeks, people have very limited windows for their research projects and this just adds variables and ruins data. It's not just TSA and contractors, it's also researchers who are feeling this.



Husband and I are both federal employees. We're good until mid February at least. We're some of the lucky few that have the ability to hold out that long. He's not worried at all but I stress about everything so it's been fun. He's considered essential and has to work for no pay. I work for a branch of government that won't run out of money until January 11th or 18th so I've yet to hear whether I'm essential or furloughed. I really hope the shutdown ends before then.



FAA ATC here, we're all still working, including mandatory OT shifts (due to historically low staffing numbers) until the shutdown ends.

We don't know when the next check is coming, we're not getting a cost of living raise, we can't strike, and we're turning in scheduled leave so we don't lose it.

Personally, I'm okay. Wife and I save, live within our means, and we can hold out for a bit on what we have. It's not great, if it goes on a while it'll be different, but for now it is what it is.



I work at the immigration courts and my coworkers and I are really stressed of the mountain of work we will have to deal with when we return. Also, all the cases we now have to reschedule. With every single day that passes by the more work that is piling up. The court is already understaffed as it is so we're all going to be scrambling even more than usual...In the meantime, I'm doing door dash and I just signed up for uber so I have that going for me. Luckily, I have my husband who is also a federal worker but he is still getting paid because his work is fee based (USCIS). However, other people aren't so lucky so they're in a scarier situation of how they are going to pay their bills, food, rent, mortgages, loans, etc.



I work for NPS and it's pretty terrible. Although, much more worse for the Law enforcement rangers who are required to be working right now, without pay. The park I work for is being completely destroyed and with ~10 (most of the time less) LE's for the whole park, they can essentially do a whole lot of nothing. Being broke is terrible and I've had to ask family for money, but seeing this park that I love so much, being destroyed, is much worse. We were all able to apply for unemployment, but would have to repay it once we get our backpay.


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