Bills seek compensation for contract workers who went unpaid during shutdown


WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) — While most federal employees received back pay following the record-long government shutdown, a number of lower-wage contract workers were never compensated for those lost wages.

Now, some members of Congress are calling on their colleagues to take action and provide help to employees who are still struggling to make ends meet nearly two months after the shutdown ended.

“It impacted my life extremely,” Lila Johnson said. “Two months without any money coming in, except my retirement and my Social Security, so it was very, very hard on me.”

Johnson, 71, works as a janitor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She’s one of many federal contract workers who hasn’t received any back pay from the government after the more than month-long shutdown.

Sam Berger with the Center for American Progress said he believes shutdowns are wrong and hopes the government can avoid another one.

“I don’t think it’s surprising that we’re still talking about the impacts of a shutdown,” Berger said. “While the political world has moved on, the folks on the ground that are really living this stuff trying to actually do the work. This is very real for them still.”

There are bipartisan bills in Congress that would provide back pay for these workers. Lawmakers such as Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, say they plan to fight to make sure contract workers like Johnson get the pay they deserve.

“They weren’t paid, through no fault of their own, so we’re looking at ways that we could adjust the contract with the private company so that these low-wage workers can be compensated,” Cardin explained.

Cardin and his fellow Democrats have urged appropriators to include contract workers in the pending appropriations bills.

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