Contract workers struggling to pay bills after shutdown: report

Contract workers struggling to pay bills after shutdown: report
© Getty Images

Some of the lowest-paid contract workers who aren't guaranteed back pay for their unpaid services during the recent government shutdown say they are still struggling to pay their bills.

Audrey Murray-Wright, who works as a supervisor at the National Portrait Gallery, told The Washington Post this week that she was forced to ration groceries for her family and could no longer afford to buy her blood pressure pills when her income stopped during the 35-day partial government shutdown that ended last Friday.

ADVERTISEMENT

Murray-Wright was one of over a million federal contract workers who stopped receiving income due to the government shutdown, the Post reported. She is one of thousands of contractors who work jobs like cleaning, guarding and cooking at federal workplaces that went without pay during the shutdown.

“I did have a little money in the bank — now that’s all gone,” she told the Post this week. “I don’t have any help. My electricity might be turned off any day now.”

Héctor Figueroa, who is president of the 32BJ SEIU labor union that represents nearly 170,000 workers in the U.S., told the Post that the government’s reopening is a temporary solution for workers who are struggling.

“Contracted workers are still in limbo,” he told the newspaper. “The men and women who clean and secure federal buildings have been living on the edge of disaster for five weeks. Many of these workers are facing eviction, power shut-offs, hunger and even going without lifesaving medications. And unlike direct federal employees, they may never be made whole.” 

Loniece Hamilton, a 25-year-old guard who works at the Smithsonian, told the Post that she is behind on “every single last one” of her bills due to the closure and had to borrow money from her family to get by with her 5-year-old son. 

She says it could take at least two months before she is caught up on her payments.

De’von Russell, 30, another security guard at the Smithsonian, told the Post that he was hit hard by the shutdown as he and his 3-year-old daughter currently live “paycheck to paycheck.” 

“When all the funds stopped coming in, it just was like: ‘What do I do now?’ ” Russell said, while also adding that he believes he’s lost $2,000 due to the shutdown.

According to the newspaper, nearly 850,000 workers received makeup pay after the 16-day shutdown in 2013. However, 1,200 cleaners, food-service workers and security guards in Washington reportedly did not.

Democratic senators introduced a bill that could help remedy that for some workers if passed. The measure, introduced by Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls Hillicon Valley: Facebook takes down 'boogaloo' network after pressure | Election security measure pulled from Senate bill | FCC officially designating Huawei, ZTE as threats Overnight Defense: Democrats blast Trump handling of Russian bounty intel | Pentagon leaders set for House hearing July 9 | Trump moves forward with plan for Germany drawdown MORE (D-Va.), Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineFinger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate Russian bounties revive Trump-GOP foreign policy divide Overnight Defense: Lawmakers demand answers on reported Russian bounties for US troops deaths in Afghanistan | Defense bill amendments target Germany withdrawal, Pentagon program giving weapons to police MORE (D-Va.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenate Dems request briefing on Russian bounty wire transfers On The Money: Mnuchin, Powell differ over how soon economy will recover | Millions fear eviction without more aid from Congress | IRS chief pledges to work on tax code's role in racial wealth disparities IRS chief pledges to work with Congress on examining tax code's role in racial wealth disparities MORE (D-Ohio), would allow federal contractors to be paid up to $965 a week with public money after a closure.