Though happy to be receiving their paychecks again, a number of federal employees in South Florida are bracing for a repeat if the government shuts down again Feb. 15.
The partial closure, the longest in U.S. history, began at midnight on Dec. 22 and continued until Jan. 25. The compromise that reopened the doors, however, only provides funds until the middle of the month.
Randy Barreiro would have had a normal Christmas with his family if it weren’t for the government shutdown. For more than 22 years, the federal government has given him and his family a good living while working as a procurement technician with the U.S. District Court.
Like many, Barreiro was planning a trip with his family, buying gifts and enjoying time off. Barreiro’s employer gave him and his colleagues prior notice to the government shutdown on Dec. 21.
“If it weren’t for that two weeks’ notice, we would have been in Tennessee without a paycheck,” said Barreiro.
But not everyone was that lucky. For single mom, Angela Inirio, a month without pay was devastating. With no warning, she had to fend for her and her child. As an employee of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, she is required to travel long distances. Without steady pay and no end in sight, workplace morale is at an all-time low.
“People start calling in sick and showing up late; morale is down. It affects your lifestyle. If you want to do your nails you have to think about paying your bills,” she said.
Despite working without pay, Randy Barreiro was more upbeat.
“Stress what you can control. If you can’t control it don’t sweat it,” said Barreiro.
Barreiro feared that many of the younger or newer employees were going to move on and find new work. As the days went on, more and more people called in sick, and some even began looking for second jobs. He looked into working night-shifts to help make it through the shutdown, while his wife, a paralegal for the U.S. Attorney, was an excepted employee and had to go into work with no pay. For one month, they had to live off of one paycheck.
According to the Federal News Network, more than 81 percent of excepted respondents said their ability to pay for the basics during the recent government shutdown was their number one concern.
“The headache, the stress and the worry takes a toll. The main issue was the worry of paying for my son’s insulin,” said Barreiro.