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Government Workers Voice Their Frustrations As They Struggle During Shutdown

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

In December, President Trump said he would shut down the government if Democrats did not agree to fund his border wall.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I am proud to shut down the government for border security.

CORNISH: And 11 days into that shutdown, government workers are anxious and fed up. Wendy Cyprus, whose husband has worked for the Justice Department for more than 20 years, has a message for the president.

WENDY CYPRUS: That is just petty. Like, who turns their back on the people that work for the government?

CORNISH: And many of those people working for the government have felt shamed for not having a bigger financial cushion.

ERIN ROBERTS: People were saying shameful things about we should have a certain amount saved.

CORNISH: That's Erin Roberts in California. Her wife is a recruiter for the Coast Guard, which is not protected from pay freezes during a shutdown. Robert says they got a one-time emergency payment this week, but...

ROBERTS: There's still the threat of not getting paid on the 15.

CORNISH: And the stress stretches from coast to coast.

SARAH WATTERSON: I think a lot of people think, oh, the federal government shut down, that's just Washington - and it's really not.

CORNISH: Sarah Watterson (ph) is the local president for the American Federation of Government Employees in Lenexa, Kan. She says there are restrictions for federal workers looking for extra income.

WATTERSON: You can't do certain jobs if it's connected to what you do for the federal government. It's a violation of ethics.

CORNISH: That's really hard for workers in certain departments like science or medicine.

WATTERSON: It's a very distinct skill set, and it's kind of a small world.

CORNISH: Chris Wall works for the Environmental Protection Agency in Honolulu. He says he's sick of federal workers being used as a political bargaining tool.

CHRIS WALL: It just feels like a kick in the face every time, like we don't matter or something.

CORNISH: Last week, the Office of Personnel Management circulated a letter with tips for federal workers who couldn't pay rent or bills. Tyler Dayne, a government program analyst here in Washington, found it unhelpful.

TYLER DAYNE: It was kind of shocking to see, like, you should offer to trade services to your landlord when it's like, I have a job to pay my rent, and it's working for the federal government.

CORNISH: Dayne says she doesn't have a lot of financial options.

DAYNE: I would have to use credit cards probably or, like, ask family members.

CORNISH: Watterson says there's a feeling of being abandoned in the federal workforce right now.

WATTERSON: To have to go and beg for mercy is kind of insulting.

CORNISH: Congress gets back to work on January 3. Without any kind of deal before then, it will be Day 13 of the government shutdown. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.