Furloughed federal workers and contractors brace for first missed payday

Devon Russell is a Smithsonian security officer, now out of work because of the government shutdown. As a contractor, he likely won’t get back pay once the shutdown is over. He’s worried about how he’ll pay his bills and provide for his family. (ABC7)

For roughly 800,000 federal workers and contractors on track to miss a paycheck by Friday, the government shutdown is becoming more urgent by the hour.

Among those bracing for lost pay are nearly 500 Smithsonian security officers who live paycheck to paycheck. And since they are work as government contractors, they likely won’t even get back pay once the shutdown is over.

“We’re the losers in the situation,” said Devon Russell, who is a security officer at the Museum of Natural History. “Basically the first thing I started thinking about was what am I going to do to pay my bills, and how am I going to provide for my daughter.”

Russell’s three-year-old daughter is still too young to understand much about Washington politics. What she does know, is that her daddy hasn’t been able to go to work for the last week.

“I filed for unemployment, but I’m still waiting to hear back,” said Russell. “Everything costs money. Nothing is cheap. You need money for everything, whether it’s to buy something you need at the store, or putting gas in your car or paying your phone bill.”

Over the last few days, several companies have stepped up to help those federal workers and contractors who are facing financial hardships as a result of the shutdown.

DC Water said it will immediately begin working with federal workers who may need additional flexibility in paying their bill and encouraged those workers to call customer service at 202-354-3600.

Dominion Energy is also offering assistance, including payment extensions, long-term payment plans and bill payment assistance options.

Pepco is also working to raise awareness about the programs it has in place to assist customers who may be struggling financially, including those impacted by the ongoing government shutdown.

The union that represents Russell and many other contracted security officers and custodians says people wanting to support those impacted workers who live paycheck to paycheck can make donations to the Community Services Agency by clicking here.

“I just want to go back to work, to the job that I love and the people I work with,” said Russell. “They need to come up with some type of agreement to end this government shutdown.”

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