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Federal Government Opens, But Pain Lingers For Maine's Hard Hit Federal Workers

The federal government is back open for three weeks, as Congress and the president work on a budget deal. But the union that represents Department of Veterans' Affairs employees, Coast Guard workers, TSA officers, and other government workers in Maine, says the crisis is not over for its members -- many of whom worked without pay during the shutdown.  Gabriel Pedreira is legislative and political organizer for American Federation of Government Employees members in several Northeastern states. He says the government is expected to issue back pay by this coming Thursday, but until then many federal workers will still be dependent on food banks.


"Workers have still not been paid, and some of them don't have money to buy food and so they're still going to food banks," Pedreira says. "Until they actually have that money deposted into their bank accounts, they don't have it."


Pedreira says even after that pay comes through, it won't immediately end the pain the shutdown has caused federal workers.


"The damage has been done, they haven't been paid for four weeks," Pedreira says. "Anyone who hasn't received pay for four weeks, they're not just going to be whole again within 24 hours."


He says the union is keeping pressure up on federal legislators to come up with a solution to pass a long-term funding plan.

"Specifically, [Sen.]Susan Collins of Maine, who at least has always portrayed herself as a moderate voice," he says, "to encourage her to try to influence leader McConnell to not play politics with this, to try and make sure we get these agencies funded for a year, not just a few weeks here and a few weeks there."

Originally published Jan. 28, 2019 at 2:37 p.m. ET.


Nora is originally from the Boston area but has lived in Chicago, Michigan, New York City and at the northern tip of New York state. Nora began working in public radio at Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor and has been an on-air host, a reporter, a digital editor, a producer, and, when they let her, played records.