Federal workers pay the price for politicians’ government shutdown

‘When is this going to be over?’

Government workers describe anxiety of going without pay in shutdown

(CNN) - House Democrats on Thursday approved a legislative package aimed at ending the partial government shutdown, while rejecting President Donald Trump’s demand for border wall funding.

The White House is threatening to veto the package, so the legislation is expected to be dead on arrival.

As the shutdown goes into its second week, it’s having real consequences for 800,000 federal workers.

Ryan Baugh and his furloughed friend spend their unplanned time away from work volunteering.

Baugh spent three hours Thursday giving blood platelets. Friday, he'll pick up trash at the National Mall.

While he's being productive with his new-found freedom, he says he still feels held hostage by the shutdown.

"Let us work without having anxiety over our next grocery bill, for those that are working without pay right now and whose leave was canceled over the holidays," Baugh said.

Andrea Popelka is one of those with a choice between groceries and utilities.

"All those things are already pre-budgeted, so when something like this happens, and you're not going to get your next check, OK what do I do?" she said.

About 380,000 workers are furloughed and another 420,000 working without pay.

But they could be the lucky ones. Traditionally, Congress grants backpay to those federal employees. Though not guaranteed for anyone, backpay is even less likely for federal contractors and the companies they work for, who might not get any money at all.

It'll put small business out of business if this continues much longer," said David Berteau, president and CEO of Professional Services Council.

Berteau, who represents federal contractors, says some businesses are still paying employees without getting paid by the government. He says the biggest impact for so many is the uncertainty.

"When is this going to be over? Am I going to be made whole at the end of it? Will anybody care about the work that I do that matters so much to me?" he said.

It's a question some federal workers were asking even before the shutdown. Author Michael Lewis' latest book "The Fifth Risk" looks at how Trump's election impacted agencies across the government.

"All they get is slandered and abused, and yet we expect them to perform these critical missions in society," Lewis said.

He says the president doesn't understand what federal employees do.

Prior to the shutdown, Trump said he was "proud to shut down the government for border security." Last week, he canceled federal employee pay raises for 2019 and claimed without evidence that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats.

Baugh, who refuses to get into the political mud, worries he may miss his opportunity to buy a house of his own.

"When people in leadership positions publicly surmise about how the pain of a million federal families, federal workers and their families, is going to tip the scale of the debate one way or the other, that represents a lack of moral leadership," he said.

While hundreds of thousands of federal workers are going without pay during the shutdown, Vice President Mike Pence and senior aides may get raises soon.

Barring legislative action to extend a pay freeze for those officials, it will end this weekend, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

On Friday, when Pence was asked during a white house press conference if he would turn down a $10,000 pay raise, he nodded his head.

Copyright 2018 CNN. KMGH, AFP/Getty Images contributed to the report. All rights reserved.