Furloughed Federal Employees Worry About Next Paychecks

NJ Spotlight News | October 14, 2013 | Politics
With the EPA lab in Edison still shuttered because of the government shutdown, furloughed federal employees say they have become pawns in a political fight and are suffering because they don't know when they'll get their next paychecks.

By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
NJ Today

The EPA lab in Edison remains shuttered due to the partial government shutdown. The impact on employees and the environment is far reaching, says Congressman Frank Pallone.

“There are about 200 people employed here, almost all furloughed, their lives disrupted because they’re furloughed and worried about whether they’ll get paid or go back to work and when,” Pallone said.

“We, as federal employees, are tired of being used as pawns. For last several years we have been used as an excuse to do things like sequestration and reduce the budget. We’ve been the ones to pay the most,” union president Paul Sacker said.

And it’s not just EPA employees who are out of work. Contractors who perform a variety of services for the agency are also impacted.

And with few workers on the job, health and safety could be compromised says Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club.

“The concern we have is that there are not the inspectors that should be out there, not enough emergency responders in case a chemical spill or accident, not enough staff in place to make sure cleanup for Superfund sites in particular move forward,” Tittel said.

In fact, work has come to a grinding halt at some Superfund sites.

“There’s the lower Passaic River, Pohatcong, Raritan. Slag site. All these things — cleanup, design work — being halted in some fashion,” Pallone said.

Meanwhile, another crisis looms. The debt ceiling deadline is Thursday. With no deal yet, the U.S. may not be able to pay its bills. And Pallone says that would also hurt the economy.

“Once the confidence in the government undermines, companies won’t be able to sell things. Start to go into a tailspin with the economy,” said Pallone.

The economic toll on tourism has prompted the reopening of the Statue of Liberty to the delight of tourists.

Talks in Washington today were encouraging. Furloughed workers hope a resolution comes soon.

“It’s quite a struggle to pay my bills and to be frightened and wonder whether I’ll get any pay. I don’t know when I’ll get a paycheck again so it’s very scary,” said furloughed EPA worker Kathleen Foley.

Scary for both employees and the overall economy say these workers who plan to hold a demonstration here tomorrow.