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Thousands of Indiana federal employees brace for another government shutdown

Federal employees brace for shutdown/Spending fight drives U.S. toward Government shutdown

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Federal unions on Thursday said a government shutdown could leave thousands of Hoosiers struggling to make ends meet.

Duncan Giles had just started working for the Department of Treasury when the 1995 shutdown happened. He has now led Chapter 49 of the National Treasury Employees Union for more than 20 years. He said federal employees have become very nervous this week as a shutdown looks more and more likely. Giles said based on his experiences with previous shutdowns, including the record 34-day shutdown from December 2018 to January 2019, a shutdown now could be a long one.

“For the employees, it’s going to be absolutely horrific because they are going to wake up every day and wonder, ‘Should I report to work? Should I not report to work?’” Giles said. “When you have a couple that’s both working for the federal government and both going to be without their paycheck, that can get really nasty very quickly.”

The federal budget runs out at 12:01 a.m. Sunday. If Congress does not reach a deal on further spending, federal employees will either be furloughed or have to work without pay. According to numbers compiled by Democrats on the House Budget Committee, Indiana is home to more than 39,000 active-duty and reserve military personnel and another 27,000 civilians who work for various federal agencies. More than 11,000 work in Indianapolis, including roughly 5,000 at the Major General Emmet J. Bean Federal Center in Lawrence, home to the Defense Finance Accounting Service and a host of other Department of Defense support functions.

Arnold Scott once worked in that building. Now the national vice president for the American Federation of Government Employees’ 6th District, Scott called the lack of a budget deal “unconscionable” and said it represents a failure to perform one of government’s most basic functions.

“They need to stop playing political pawns with government employees and fund the federal government,” Scott said. “Federal employees should not have to sit out here and wonder if they are going to have to come in and work without getting paid or if they’re going to be sent home.”

Scott said during the most recent shutdown, some federal workers resorted to food stamps to make ends meet. Moreover, not having a paycheck means federal workers are unable to spend their money at local businesses. Comparing the stalemate in Washington to the situation right before previous shutdowns, he said a shutdown looks inevitable at this point.

Giles said this week has been an especially rude awakening for treasury employees because the IRS originally thought it could use money from the Inflation Reduction Act to keep the doors open in the event of a shutdown, but now learned it can’t do that. He said his union has been urging employees to save their money and be ready to cut out any expenses, from dining out to cable services.

“This is a situation that is really tough on federal employees,” Giles said. “Not only the shutdown itself, but also the worry, and just the angst about that is just horrible and it eats employees alive.”

If a shutdown does happen, federal law provides for automatic back pay once it ends. Giles said that’s some consolation, but doesn’t help pay bills that are due right now.