Furloughed federal workers sweat looming payroll deadline

To most people, it's Tuesday -- but to furloughed federal workers across the US, it's "D day."If a de...

Posted: Jan 9, 2019 12:32 AM
Updated: Jan 9, 2019 12:32 AM

To most people, it's Tuesday -- but to furloughed federal workers across the US, it's "D day."

If a deal isn't struck to end the shutdown by midnight, the government won't be able to make its next payroll. That means workers will have to wait until January 26 at the earliest to get their next salary checks.

Civil servants

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Workers and professionals

"Tuesday is D Day," said Terrence Windham, a federal corrections officer in Aliceville, Alabama. "We're trying to do everything we can do to brace for the impact. It's almost like a hurricane."

Windham has worked for seven years at the Aliceville prison, a medium-security women's facility. He's also the union president and a member of the Aliceville City Council. He worries about what the shutdown will do to the economy of his hometown, which counts a population of just 3,218.

"Each of the employees at the federal prison, whether they live here or whether they (do) not, they have a significant impact on the financial aspect here," he said.

The average salary for a corrections officer at the Federal Correctional Institution in Aliceville is about $40,000 to $50,000 dollars a year, Windham and other workers said. That's double the town's median income, which is just under $20,000.

The town relies on the nearly 300 federal prison workers, many of whom drive in from the surrounding areas, to spend money at the town's few restaurants and gas stations. If they're not spending money, the town isn't making money.

"Friday is living on hope," says Heather Bryant, another corrections officer at the prison.

Without her paycheck this week, it will be a struggle to spend money on the gas she needs to drive 30 minutes from neighboring Reform, Alabama. That means she won't be spending any money in Aliceville either.

"I am a single parent, I have two children at home: a 16-year-old, and a 10-year-old," said Bryant. "I live paycheck to paycheck."

With her ex-husband also furloughed, she said she'll turn to her parents for temporary help.

President Donald Trump is set to speak Tuesday night about his proposed border wall. He's said in recent comments that he's prepared to wait months or even years to reopen the government.

That's triggered alarm for furloughed workers, especially in places like Aliceville.

Corrections officer Angie Acklin went through the previous shutdown in 2013, but says this one feels different because she sees no end in sight.

"For someone to say that it could go on for months or years, we don't have months or years," she said. "Our creditors are not going to give us an IOU. I talked to one this morning and was like, 'Hey, can we work this out?' And they basically said, 'I'll see you in court.'"

She added that she's frustrated with lawmakers leaving her without a paycheck this week and blames both sides for the shutdown.

"Money unifies everyone -- it's not about red or blue it's about green," Acklin said. "If someone asks 'are you for or against the wall?' I say 'I am for getting paid and I'm against not getting paid.'"

This year the town was set to break ground on a 40-unit housing rental project intended to entice prison employees to live in Aliceville and spend their salaries in town. But that too is stalled with the shutdown.

According to the president of the chamber of commerce, Edgar Pruitt, the government closure has held up the USDA rural housing grant he needs in order to break ground.

"If I can't get that document by ... mid-February, my project won't happen this year," Pruitt said. "Businesses who were depending on that housing will have no choice but to move on. They can't wait."

Windham, Bryant and Acklin say they resent being used as "pawns" and repeatedly urged lawmakers to do their jobs.

"Even though we're not getting paid right now, we took an oath and we have self-integrity and obligation. So therefore, we're choosing to go to work anyway. To do the job that we swore an oath to do and that's what we expect of everyone involved. They swore an oath as well and we expect them to hold up their end of the bargain," said Bryant, adding, "They're elected officials and they need to do the job that they were elected to do."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 43170

Reported Deaths: 1548
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Hennepin13790791
Ramsey5357237
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Anoka2477114
Nobles16976
Washington132441
Olmsted131920
Mower9902
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Clay62738
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Sherburne3715
Lyon3592
Freeborn3160
Watonwan2720
Steele2661
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St. Louis24116
Nicollet21212
Martin1765
Winona15315
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Crow Wing11612
Pine1140
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Pipestone904
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Swift351
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Wilkin233
Cass212
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Aitkin170
Marshall160
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Pope140
Mahnomen131
Hubbard110
Stevens110
Lake90
Traverse80
Lac qui Parle60
Red Lake50
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 35769

Reported Deaths: 756
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk7663185
Woodbury336044
Black Hawk254459
Buena Vista173711
Johnson14938
Dallas142831
Linn141684
Scott112210
Marshall110519
Dubuque101623
Story8808
Pottawattamie84213
Wapello71531
Muscatine69745
Crawford6803
Sioux5150
Tama49029
Webster4395
Wright4021
Louisa36713
Jasper35917
Plymouth3545
Cerro Gordo3451
Warren3371
Dickinson3093
Washington2549
Hamilton2071
Boone1741
Clay1511
Clarke1453
Clinton1441
Allamakee1384
Shelby1210
Mahaska12017
Carroll1171
Franklin1170
Bremer1167
Poweshiek1118
Pocahontas1091
Des Moines1032
Emmet990
Cedar961
Henry933
Hardin920
Cherokee851
Marion850
Floyd842
Guthrie824
Taylor810
Benton781
Monona780
Jones741
Jackson720
Butler702
Osceola700
Sac690
Buchanan661
Calhoun662
Hancock631
Harrison630
Iowa631
Jefferson630
Lyon630
Fayette610
Humboldt611
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Madison572
Lee542
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Clayton513
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Davis431
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Union420
Howard370
Lucas354
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Greene310
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