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Shutdown Day 35: Federal Workers To Miss A 2nd Paycheck

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It is Day 35 of the partial government shutdown. We wanted to take a moment to check in with some of the people being directly affected, starting with Don Drewett. He is a correctional officer in Otisville, N.Y., and the national legislative coordinator for CPL 33, which is the union for federal prison workers. He shared what some of those workers are going through.

DON DREWETT: It's not a matter of dollars and cents. It's about life and death right now. And not that I'm going to be able to mention personal identifiers, but we had somebody attempt suicide already. We have folks that can't even afford to pay for their insulin because they're diabetics. You know, if you want to use your sick leave or you want to take your mom to chemotherapy, you're doing that under the understanding that you might not get paid for it.

We're at a point where the morale, the despair, the inability to do the things that you've been planning, that all goes out the window. And because of that now, people's lives have been impacted to the point where it's not only affecting them but their parents and their family and their friends. And the longer it goes, the more affected more people are.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Heather Harrell is a contract employee at the Bureau of Land Management in Colorado. And as a contractor, she doesn't know if she'll receive backpay, which has her making hard decisions at a very difficult time.

HEATHER HARRELL: About two weeks into the shutdown, my grandmother actually passed away. And actually, the day after she passed away is whenever Trump said that this shutdown could last for months or years. And at that point, I knew I couldn't responsibly buy a plane ticket. And I had to just make the choice not to go. It was the responsible choice to make. But it doesn't make it any less upsetting.

My fiancee, he got diagnosed with brain cancer in May of 2018. He has been out of work since then. My very modest entry-level salary is, like, basically all we've had since May. This kind of thing is - it's not good for morale. And it makes people wonder, No. 1, why you have been through that. And No. 2, well, if they're going to put me through this, why should I stick around?

INSKEEP: Last night, Eleanor Holmes Norton, who is the elected delegate for Washington, D.C., held a town hall meeting to hear from residents affected by the shutdown.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOWN HALL MEETING)

ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON: I'm going to ask my colleagues to join me in writing the credit companies and asking them to forbear on changing the credit score.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

INSKEEP: Monica Louis (ph) was one of the people who attended. And she said she's used to giving, not receiving.

MONICA LOUIS: I was in a line to get groceries. And I looked at a board that showed the people who have donated over the years. And I saw my name on a donation board. I was like, wow, you could never get too comfortable.

MARTIN: That's a sentiment probably shared by a lot of federal employees as they prepare to miss a second paycheck. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.