President Donald Trump told federal workers Friday that their paychecks would be coming soon, under a temporary deal to reopen government after the partial shutdown that reached 35 days.
“I will make sure that all employees receive their back pay very quickly,” Trump pledged Friday.
While 800,000 federal employees will certainly welcome the president’s announcement of a temporary deal to reopen government and get paychecks printing again, the measure was just for three weeks, while border security debates continuing on Capitol Hill.
“This environment is stressful,” Ben Deutch, the local leader of the air traffic controllers union at the Burlington International Airport, said Friday, before Trump’s announcement about the plan to reopen the government.
Deutch and his coworkers missed another payday Friday because of the partial government shutdown—meaning, they went a month without their incomes.
“We are not a negotiating tactic,” Deutch said, describing how federal employees felt caught in the middle of the fight over the president’s desire for a border barrier. “We are not to be held hostage.”
Necn was with the air traffic controller before the start of his shift as FAA staffing pinches linked to the shutdown sent delays rippling through airports everywhere Friday, including in Vermont.
“It’s going to impact more than the 800,000 government employees and their families,” Deutch noted, describing the uncertainty and confusion that comes from a government shutdown and was blamed for the air travel delays. “It’s going to impact the entire country. And the country doesn’t deserve that.”
As Deutch waits for his back pay, charities keep stepping up to help.
An estimated 1.2-million Americans have jobs as federal contractors. They’ve also lost money, and, unlike direct U.S. government employees, the contractors were not covered by back pay legislation passed by Congress.
The Humane Society of Chittenden County announced it’ll distribute pet food to struggling federal workers–urging them to stay “pawsitive.” When the reopening of government was announced, the shelter said federal workers and their pets remain in need, so the free food offer would continue for now.
“We appreciate all the support we received from the community,” the HSCC wrote on its Facebook page. “Any excess funds will go towards our emergency pet food shelf for families in crisis and support our animal care.”
Vermont Catholic Charities extended its emergency aid program to folks statewide directly affected by the shutdown, offering support for groceries or utility bills.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Vermont said this week it increased its support of the emergency aid program. Vermont Catholic Charities administers the safety net for struggling people, regardless of faith.
“Whether you’re a parishioner, non-parishioner, Catholic, non-Catholic—we help people because we’re Catholic, not because those we serve are Catholic,” noted Mary Beth Pinard, the executive director of Vermont Catholic Charities.
Reaction was swift to the president’s announced goal to reopen government until at least mid-February—and it was biting from Vermont’s Congressional delegation, which is made up of two Democrats and one Independent who caucuses with the Democrats.
“The Trump Shutdown should have never happened, and it should have never dragged on for 35 days,” Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, said in a written statement. “And for what? All of this pain and suffering to end where we began. On December 19, the Senate passed a bill by voice vote to fund the government to February 8 – nearly what the President has proposed today – only for President Trump to break his word and precipitate this national crisis.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, echoed Sen. Leahy in saying he considered the shutdown completely avoidable.
Sanders, in a speech on the Senate floor, called it a “happy and positive day” for federal employees and all Americans that government would reopen, yet pointed out that a bipartisan, unanimous Senate vote last month would have extended government operations until February.
“Think of the suffering, the uncertainty, the pain that hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been forced to experience,” Sen. Sanders said.
Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, accused Trump of recklessness and charged that he was using the shutdown merely to attempt to fulfill a “phony campaign promise” to build barriers along the border with Mexico.
“America needs common sense, cost-effective border and port security and comprehensive immigration reform,” Welch said in a written statement. “Those important goals will never be met if this impetuous and willful president does not abandon the now-thoroughly discredited tactic of closing the federal government. It should never be used again.”
Air traffic controller Ben Deutch said federal workers everywhere are eager to reclaim normalcy in their lives.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” Deutch said of the past several weeks of life under the shutdown.