Federal workers in Washington state struggle to survive without pay during shutdown
It’s almost a month since the partial government shutdown. Many federal workers are struggling without a paycheck.
There are nearly 73,000 federal workers in Washington, one of the few states providing unemployment benefits to furloughed workers. But federal regulations prevent the state from providing unemployment to those who are required to work without pay.
At a recent press conference by Washington Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, some of these workers shared their stories.
Some essential employees like Angie Tucker continue to work 16-hour shifts at the federal detention center in SeaTac. Tucker is also a breast cancer survivor.
“I’ve been with the bureau for 15 years," said Tucker. "I don’t have a lot of sick leave and I had to take a leave without pay, potentially, depending on how this all ends, to go deal with banks, to see if somebody will work with me.”
Cairo D’Almeida is a TSA Officer. As president of AFGE Local 1102, the union representing TSA employees, he’s been busy trying to get help for his coworkers.
“I spent my two off days calling food banks, answering phone calls from the health department asking me do this officer work for TSA," D'Almeida said. "When was the last paycheck? December 28."
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development employee Diana de Forest has been supporting her family for the past 14 years. Her mom called her immediately after the shutdown and asked if she needed money.
"It’s pretty embarrassing at my age to have to get a loan from mom," said de Forest. "But I said yes, please; I did not save enough before Christmas."
De Forest says her family is doing OK with that loan. Meanwhile, she's been looking for work. Craigslist has been looking for mystery shoppers, but even those jobs are hard to get, she said.
"I did not get a call back," de Forest told KUOW. "I will be painting a friend’s house this week while I’m barred from doing my actual job."
Another HUD employee, Michael Peeler, is the primary breadwinner for his family. Since the shutdown, he's had to dip into his savings to pay the bills.
Peeler oversees construction of new care facilities around the country. Part of his job includes reviewing reports by contract inspectors who conduct monthly inspections, but he's not been able to do that.
"I’m not getting paid, and they’re not getting paid, either," he said.
The shutdown, Peeler added, has ripple effects.