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It could take years for these workers to recover from America’s record-breaking government shutdown

2 128 412
12.01.2019

At some point, the partial federal government shutdown — which on Saturday officially became the longest on record in the United States — will come to an end. Workers will be paid weeks of pay owed to them, and temporary financial hardships will be lifted. That’s true, at least, for most government employees.

But long after government paychecks start being reissued, thousands of contract workers across the United States will continue to struggle to regain a solid financial footing — and may be unable to do so for years.

Contract workers, including security guards, food service workers, and janitors working at federal facilities, often earn barely enough to get by. They are uniquely vulnerable to losing even one day’s pay, as the partial government shutdown stretched into a record 22nd day.

The partial closure of the federal government began on December 22, after President Trump refused to back down from his $5.7 billion demand from Congressional Democrats to build a vanity wall on the US-Mexico border.

Some 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or are working without pay. Hardest hit, however, have been contract workers. They might work for decades cleaning the buildings of the Commerce Department or patroling the corridors of the Air and Space Museum, but contract workers are technically employees of middleman companies that placed a winning low bid to provide these services to the federal government.

Lila Johnson, 71, has worked as a janitor at the US Department of Agriculture for more than 20 years. Three contracting companies have come and gone in that time, but she has continued to clean the building’s bathroom and mop its floors. She says the shutdown has upended her already financially precarious world.

“My car note is already two months behind. Now I have to wonder how I’m going to pay next month’s rent,” she told ThinkProgress. “I talked to my creditors. I’m pleased to say that they’re working with me. They know that I’ve never been behind before.”

Johnson had minor surgery just before the shutdown and doesn’t get paid sick days, so she received a smaller than usual pay on Friday. She expects to receive no money at all on February 15, her next “payday” after not having........

© ThinkProgress