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Federal Workers Bracing For Furlough Pain

As lawmakers at the Capitol continue to haggle over funding the federal government, employees across the region are bracing for a potential shutdown.

Friday was another day, another press conference on the Hill, yet still no serious negotiations are underway to avert a shutdown. While the Senate passed a bill today to fund the government through mid November, House leaders are promising to change it and send it right back.

"It's like a game of chicken," says Melissa York, an indexer for the National Library of Medicine.

If a shutdown happens, lawmakers still draw their salaries, but York and hundreds of thousands of federal employees won't. Besides the potential for lost income, York bemoans how federal workers are being portrayed.

"They make us the punching bag and are always saying bad things about us," York says. "I think that tends to make people think that we are bad people."

Michael Skerker is an assistant professor at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. He's a civilian along with about 300 other professors. All of those civilians are facing forced time off in the event of a shutdown.

"It's anxiety producing," Skerker says.

Skerker's already been furloughed for six days this summer, which means a couple thousand dollars in lost income. And if the government's lights do flip off, most workers aren't expecting any back pay from this divided Congress. Skerker says it's hard to plan for the unknown.

"Now with the potential of this happening again it's disconcerting and frustrating, because we don't know what's going to happen," he says. "We've been asked to make contingency plans about having our officer colleagues cover our classes or try to figure things out, but we don't know if it's going to happen or not. And we don't know if it does happen how long it will last."

This story was informed by the Public Insight Network, or PIN. It's a way for people to share their stories with us and for us to reach out for input on topics we're covering. You can learn more about the network by visiting WAMU.org/Public_Insight_Network.

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