Foley Square, MANHATTAN (PIX11)– After 16 days shuttered, the federal government is back open. However, as one local federal worker’s situation shows, reopening the government is not as easy, nor as cheap, as just reopening federal office building doors.
“Even in my office right now, the morale has gone way down,” said a Treasury Department worker who did not want to be identified. He told PIX11 News that returning to work has been problematic for him, for the people he serves and for taxpayers.
First him. “[We were given] 20 hours to basically make up your deadlines or whatever you had to do.” In other words, he was told by supervisors that he had two and-a-half days to make up or reschedule the two and-a-half weeks of work he was forced to miss.
In exchange for his trouble, he said, “You see your bank account going further and further down. It’s crazy.”
He said he’s getting 60 percent pay for the time he lost and is going to have to make up. The other 40 percent is supposed to be credited to him in a future paycheck. “It just doesn’t make sense,” he told PIX11 News, “that they’re basically going to pay me twice to do the same work that I could’ve done in that [nearly] three week period.”
For the government to send out retroactive paychecks and other disbursements, there is a cost of extra time and labor that gets passed on to taxpayers. That cost has not yet been fully calculated. However, during the last shutdown before this one, in 1996, it cost the government an additional $2 billion in retroactive pay, missed revenue and other expenses, according to the federal Office of Management and Budget.
The overall economy took a much bigger hit in the shutdown that just finished, though. Standard & Poor’s, the financial services company that analyzes national financial data, estimates that the shutdown caused a $1.5 billion loss to the U.S. economy each day that it wore on, for a total of at least $24 billion.
That means that the economy shrank by 0.6% for the 4th quarter of the year. It was money that the whole country lost as a result of a faction of conservative congressional Republicans forcing the shutdown in order to try and de-fund the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
“I think the Republicans are going to take the fall for this,” said the federal worker who spoke with PIX11 News. “And I consider myself a Republican.”
He said that he felt the federal government actually needs to be shrunk, but he also said that shutting the entire government down was not the way to go about it. In fact, he said, he was not anticipating it coming to this.
“I never thought that this was possible,” he said in the interview. He also said that, even though Congress has now authorized funding for the government to remain open only until mid-January, he anticipates that legislators will renew funding plans so that federal offices and facilities stay open through the rest of next year. After all, he pointed out, 2014 is an election year for all members of congress.