WASHINGTON/Buffalo, NY (AP/WIVB) - The House of Representatives has passed a bill to give 800,000 furloughed federal workers retroactive pay once the government reopens.
The House passed the bill in a rare Saturday session. The vote was 407-0.
The Senate was expected to OK it as well, but the timing is unclear, and the White House backs the legislation.
But one Western New Yorker who works for the Department of Homeland Security calls the bill nothing more than a "tease."
"You're not going to pay these people, but yet, you still want us to perform our duties as we normally would, and protect you?" she exclaims.
While 800,000 federal employees are furloughed, this woman is one of the ones who is still going to work every day, but not getting paid.
"Essential employees like myself and my coworkers, people that work for ICE, Border Patrol and the airports, they're all working hard every day trying to keep the country safe. And we have no clue when we're going to see another paycheck," she says.
She spoke to News 4 on the condition that we not reveal her identity.
"It throws everything into chaotic spin-cycle," she says. "You have no idea when any money's coming in, when you're going to be able to pay your bills."
"Right now, I could make it happen with savings, but what we get paid, it's absolutely impossible to have a savings with all these extra bills. Car payments, student loans, and taxes coming up. It's very scary. It's terrifying, actually."
Morale among her coworkers has plummeted, since the partial government shutdown began five days ago.
"It's terrible. That's all we talk about. Nobody's focused on your task at work and protecting the country. Everybody is just pretty down and out," she says.
And it's not just the hours they're actually working that they're not being compensated for. Those who take personal time, vacation and sick leave won't get paid for those days off.
No money is going into their pensions or special federal savings accounts. They can't withdraw any money from those savings accounts to live off of during the shutdown, either, because the employees who process the paperwork are furloughed.
"I am worried now. Absolutely worried now," the DHS employee tells News 4. "Crying almost every day, because I have no idea what's going to happen..."
She's angry. And the retro pay bill is no consolation.
"It's pretty much saying, 'Oh, we're gonna pay you. But, when we decide to agree and get this moving,'" she says.
She also has a message for lawmakers in Washington
"They're the ones that are getting paid for sitting on Capitol Hill with their coffees every morning, relaxed 'cause they know money's coming in. Where us essential employees protecting this country, are not getting anything right now. Just make up your mind. Decide what you want to do. There's people's lives on the line."
The federal government been partially shut down since Tuesday, the start of the new budget year. Both President Barack Obama and Congress are in Washington on Saturday, but there's no apparent progress in ending the shutdown.
After the voting, members of the House planned to leave town and not return until Monday evening. House Republicans are continuing their strategy of passing bills to reopen selected parts of the federal government. Democrats are rejecting that piecemeal approach, saying the entire government should be reopened.
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