The Government Shutdown Is Over But…

government-reopens-generic-mgnThe longest Government shutdown in American history ended on Friday and my office welcomed me back to work.  It’s back to normal….well almost.  I still have not been paid back and the next payday is still 10 days away so, yes, I’m still needing to pay my bills.

Even with being back to work, the dark cloud of another shutdown looms in three weeks as this temporary reprieve is almost certain to result in yet another government shutdown.

I was encouraged that more and more companies were starting to help out furloughed government workers with food and assistance with our bills.  It really got off to a slow start.  It was really nice that the Nashville Zoo offered free admission to us in spite of the haters.

I was disappointed in the Robins Financial Credit Union for not providing better assistance to me after 35 years of being a member.  Since Robins Air Force Base wasn’t affected by the shutdown, I was one of the few customers who were affected by it.  They did approve a loan but nothing to fit the situation and not as understanding as they would have been had the base been impacted by the shutdown.

It was encouraging that one of my past co-workers, mentor and friend offered me a loan to hold me over.  That meant a lot to me that he offered.

Some financial institutions finally started offering some assistance such as PayPal which offered a one-time 0% APR cash advance up to a maximum of $500.  Our local electric and gas companies also offered assistance thanks to our mayor.  These were all nice gestures to help us in this very unique situation.

We are told to call our elected representatives which I did and I got their interns.  How do you actually get to talk to your elected representative?  How are you certain that your voice is being heard?

Then there were the haters who failed to see the difference between a government furlough and layoff.  Until you’ve been through it, you truly can’t understand it and I have grown tired of explaining it.  In this situation, you are left in limbo where you can’t really go out and get another job or function very well while politicians are withholding your paycheck.   Contrary to what some of the millionaires suggested, I was not able to barter with my landlord for the rent, I couldn’t put my groceries on a tab and taking out a “small” loan still means interest that I will have to pay back which will cost more than my back pay.  No, this certainly was no vacation.

I also didn’t like being called into work when I was originally deemed non-essential.  I think they should do something where people who have to work during these shutdowns are paid extra.  It doesn’t seem right that we all get paid back the same but I’m still glad we’re getting paid back.  There is never any guarantee that will happen.

Three weeks and all this could happen again.  There is clearly not enough time to save up enough money to survive another 30+ day shutdown.  It isn’t fair that political debates can cause our paychecks to be withheld.  Something should be done to keep any politician from using this hostage tactic in order to get a project passed.  This isn’t the way we should function. It is really a helpless situation where you have to watch CNN or some other news source to find out when you are going back to work.

So you get paid for staying home?  It’s not what you think.  I spent several days staying home in a self-imposed house arrest so as not to spend any money and stressed about how the next bill was going to get paid.  When I missed my second paycheck, the stress level was elevated and I was trying to find someone that would hire me for part-time or contract work.  No, I assure you it wasn’t “fun”.

I don’t want sympathy because I know most people don’t really care and already have a low opinion of government employees as well as those we support.  I also don’t want to be called a patriot or thanked for my sacrifice.  This wasn’t done willingly for anyone.  The shutdown took away my paychecks which I needed to support my family.

I think I can speak for my other 799,999 fellow government colleagues and say that we are happy to be back to work for you and able to support our families….for three more weeks.

 

 

 

 

“Well you’re gonna get paid back…”

backpaySince being directly affected by the “partial” government shutdown, I have been furloughed and will miss my second paycheck this Friday.  I have heard people who are not affected and have no clue what it is like make the comment:  “Well you’re gonna get paid back…”

Clueless.

Yes, we are supposed to get paid back but you still have to pay the bills when they are due and contrary to what they are saying, you can’t negotiate with your bills to wait or delay payment with everyone.  Coming up I have the water bill, mortgage, HOA fees, electric bill and car payment due.  The only “break” they are giving government employees affected by the shutdown is the normal “grace period” you would get anyway.  No special treatment or circumstances because of the government shutdown.  Even my credit union said that they would not give me a break of my credit card bill.  “After the 10 day grace period, it will be sent to collections and affect your credit report.” is what the customer service lady told me.

Nobody tells you about this on the news.

“So, take out a loan?”

Okay, when you apply for a loan they want to know if you are getting a paycheck.  See how easy it is to get a loan then.  If you do apply for a loan then how are you going to pay the first loan payment?

Nobody tells you about this.

And if you do get a loan, how much are you going to get?  With no end to the government shutdown in sight, you are just taking a wild guess on that amount.

The comments that government officials make on the news shows how they have absolutely no clue on what is going on here.  How could they?  They are getting paid.  Most of them are rich and have more assets than the 800,000 that are being held hostage.

One of these brilliant millionaires suggested that we barter with our landlord to pay the rent.  Are you serious?  We don’t all have landlords and this isn’t feasible for those of us with mortgages.  What century are they living in?

Today Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says that he doesn’t understand why furloughed workers are using food banks.  This is a joke right?  He doesn’t understand?  How could he when he’s getting his paycheck?  He went on to say that it should be no problem for us to get a loan and while we might have to pay a little bit of interest.  Little bit?  Let me see, maybe he considers 10-12 percent a “little bit” but when your paycheck is being withheld, even when we get paid back, we are going to have to pay MORE than we are getting back to repay this loan.  They aren’t paying us back with interest.  So why are furloughed workers going to food banks?  When you are in this situation, you have to do what you have to do to survive this crisis.  If the bill collector refuses to give you a break on your bill then you pay it if you can out of your grocery money and take advantage of whatever is out there.

White House Economic Adviser, Kevin Hassett, suggested last week that we are better off because we don’t have to use our vacation days.

Let me assure you that this has been no vacation.  On the days when I haven’t been called to work, I have sat at home because I don’t want to go out and spend any money.  It’s a solitary confinement as I stress about how I am going to pay the bills when the money runs out.  No, it isn’t a vacation and I definitely don’t feel like I am better off.

Call your elected officials?   That’s what they tell us to do.  Do you know what you get?  You won’t talk to your Congressman or Senator, you get an intern who takes the call and gives you the canned statement they have been told to say.

So what else is happening during the shutdown?  I can’t contribute to my retirement and I can’t pay my health insurance payments.

And when we do get paid back, we will get taxed MORE.

I certainly don’t feel like a patriot.

The No-Pay Payday

payThis is a strange day for me.  It is usually the day I get a paycheck from my Government employer but with the current “partial” (it’s not-so-partial when it directly affects you) shutdown, nothing will be deposited into my bank account.  So, I have been scrambling.  When I left work for the Christmas holidays, I had absolutely no idea that this was going to happen.  We always assume (yeah I know what it means to assume) that cooler heads would prevail and everything would get worked out.  Today I turn on the news and they still say “no end in sight” and that after this weekend, this will be the longest government shutdown in history.

To add insult to injury, my supervisor called and asked me to report to work on Monday to support some of my “essential” co-workers who have been working during the shutdown.

Right now my bills need to be paid.  I’m not okay with this.  I am not on strike and I am not voluntarily sacrificing for funding for this wall.  I just want to work and pay my bills.  The suggestion that we should “barter” with our landlord is yet another example of how politicians are out of touch with reality.  Even if I could barter with my landlord (which I don’t have one) how am I supposed to pay my other bills.  Not many of them are understanding.  Sure, they might defer payment or give you an extension but many times this is still reflected on your credit score.  Getting a loan?  Yeah, try that one when you apply and you AREN’T GETTING A PAYCHECK.  Duh.  Is anyone home?  With the end of the shutdown nowhere in sight, how are you going to make the first payment on the loan if you get one in the first place?

I don’t like being in this position.

Get another job?  That would work if I wasn’t being called back into work and how long am I supposed to work another job?  What other employer is going to agree to hire you when you return to your normal job when the government re-opens?

Someone said to contact my congressman.  I did.  Three days ago.  No response.  None.  Zip.   He’s still getting a paycheck.

I have read people’s comments who say they are willing to make the sacrifice for the funding to build the wall.  I am not.  I did not asked to be held hostage in this negotiation.  It is ridiculous to suggest that I should.  As I have told others, I work for the American people, not a political party.  In fact, we aren’t even allowed to identify with any political party or do our jobs with any political favoritism.

I see reports that government workers are protesting and picketing the White House.  Yeah, that will show them.  Ineffective.  I read where lawsuits are being filed for making us work while not being paid during the shutdown.  Yeah, let’s see how successful that will be.  Point is….no one cares.  Our employer certainly doesn’t care.  If this were a private company and the owner refused to pay their employees until he got what he wanted, people would be livid about it.  The only people livid today are my fellow 800,000 workers missing a paycheck today.

I’m not asking for sympathy.  I know most people don’t really give a damn.  I’m just pretty mad about this – especially today.

Sidelined Litigation Support Specialist

 

sidelinedI am currently sidelined by my employer during the Government shutdown.  I have been deemed to be “non-excepted” which means they think I am not essential during the shutdown.  I really don’t know how to take that.  Although my co-workers who were tagged as being essential are still working without pay, I am not comfortable with being put on the sideline until the politicians can decide on funding the wall.  I don’t like this situation one bit.

So I am doing odd jobs and chores around the house to keep busy until I get back in.

I have to reflect on this because I do become essential when an attorney needs a video clip or help with playing a file.  Don’t tell me that I am “non-excepted” because I can assure you that I certainly become essential when they need something or help with an eDiscovery issue.  I don’t know how they are managing those issues right now.  Unfortunately, I am prohibited from helping.   I suppose they are getting it done without me.

On the other hand, this may be a good thing.  Maybe they will see exactly what I contribute to the mission on a daily basis.  No, I’m not saying I am the most important person there but I am a team player and I do my part and I’m damn good at it.  I have always taken pride in doing it and I want to be back doing it again.  I’m completely frustrated that I am being forced to sit out because of some political tug-of-war.

Right now instead of managing data, complex databases issues or assisting the legal support staff with discovery or trial issues, I am trying to figure out how I am going to pay my bills and what I need to do to manage my budget while my paycheck is on hold.  I would rather be dealing with a discovery issue than my household budget.  I am confronting another stress that I hadn’t seen coming.  I had projects that I had planned to work on now but I’m on the sideline.

Since 1996, I have been involved in litigation support duties for my employer.  I have sat in the “hot seat” of hundreds of trials over the years.  I have been the ringmaster of technology in the courtroom while assisting the legal team in presenting documents, photos, audio and video in the courtroom.  The technology has changed so much over the time I have been doing this.  While I first started, we had VHS tapes for video and audio cassette tapes for audio recordings.  Today, the audio and video comes through in a variety of formats and software programs.  Instead of easier, in many ways it has become more complex.  If you ask any of the attorneys I have assisted in those trials, they would all tell you that I was very much essential.  I wouldn’t be on the sideline like I am right now.

I have been through other shutdowns, furloughs and delayed paychecks.  The last time I was also sent home but then when the workload was too much, I suddenly became essential and was asked to go in to handle it.

While the news only reports that the Government shutdown is causing trash to be out of control in the national parks, they ignore the hundreds of thousands or government workers who are forced to the sideline because they are not considered to be essential.  Not much is said about that.  Many of us would rather be back to work AND getting paid for it.   Since I am not the employee who is not able to pick up the trash at a national park, most people won’t know or care that I am not able to do my job.  It doesn’t matter to me what other people think.  I know and that’s all that matters to me.

I don’t know how long I will be on the furlough bench.  It doesn’t look too promising that I will be back in the game anytime soon.  I can assure you that I will be ready when the call comes and whether or not my employer considers me essential or not I will get the job done as I always have throughout my career.