Federal workers in Jersey feeling effects of shutdown

Maureen Smith, a technician at the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center, has worked four weeks with no paycheck.

“This weekend my father bought us food. My mother put gas in my car,” Smith said.

She told a roomful of fellow workers — furloughed and unpaid due to the government shutdown — her biggest fear.

“I don’t get my paycheck for a second time. That’s when the ‘what if’s’ become reality. What we have — me and my husband have — in savings is going to be gone. How am I going to buy diapers?” Smith said.

As of Jan. 17, 1,000 federal employees in New Jersey had applied for unemployment benefits. Meanwhile, facing a 10 percent absenteeism rate nationwide, the TSA brought in outside staff to fill in for unpaid security screeners who called out at Newark and other airports this weekend. On Monday, the AFL-CIO and local labor unions hosted Sen. Bob Menendez and Congressmen Donald Norcross and Jeff Van Drew to update unpaid federal workers and contractors from the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center in Pomona and federal prison in Fairton.

“I’m very frustrated because, to me, you’re holding my paycheck hostage for something that has absolutely nothing to do with me,” said Natalie Cole-Warters an employee of theF airton Federal Correctional Institution.

“It’s going to trickle down. It’s going to trickle down and hurt more and more people every day,” said Donna Challender, whose spouse is an unpaid federal worker.

“Our message is very simple to start off with: open the government, get people back to work, and we can talk border security is,” Menendez said.

Democrats summarily rejected Donald Trump’s most recent offer to reopen the government in exchange for giving “Dreamers” a three-year reprieve from deportation — but no path to citizenship — in exchange for $5.7 billion to build his wall on the southern border.

“As a candidate for president, I promised I would fix this crisis, and I intend to keep that promise one way or the other,” Trump said on Saturday.

“I think we need to get folks in a room, 24/7, bang this out — come up with some sort of compromise and a negotiation that lets us move forward and open government up,”said Van Drew.

He said opening the government first would be preferable.

“But if it has to happen simultaneously to get these people back to work, I’m okay with it happening simultaneously,” Van Drew added.

The House and Senate are due back in session on Tuesday. There will be votes on funding bills — none of which are expected to make it to the White House.