Maryland senators press to end government shutdown

Maryland workers worry about when they will get paid
MD senators.jpg
Posted at 1:46 PM, Jan 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-11 17:29:45-05

Maryland is one of the top three states affected by the partial government shutdown, as thousands of federal workers living in Maryland worry about when they’ll get paid.

Friday is the first day of the shutdown in which non-essential furloughed workers and essential workers who still must report to work, won’t receive a paycheck.

More than a dozen government workers and union representatives from NASA to the Treasury, came to the Howard County Savage Branch Library in Laurel to share their shutdown stories. Maryland senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, along with Howard County Executive Calvin Ball came to hear those personal experiences.

American Federation of Government Employees union representative Jeff Barlow said “I actually get paid tomorrow, where in the morning you check that phone and see that your account has changed, I don't expect that to happen tomorrow.”

The Senate passed legislation Thursday night to ensure furloughed workers receive back pay once the shutdown is over, a bill which President Trump has said he will sign.

”I appreciate that they passed legislation that can give us some kind of peace that at some point we will get paid, whenever that is,” Barlow said.

Meanwhile, the president seeks congress to approve spending more than $5 billion on a barrier to stop illegal immigration at the southern border.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) said “this is not about whether we need secure borders. of course we need secure borders, this is about not wasting billions of dollars of taxpayer money on a 2,000 mile long wall, that the experts say will not accomplish the goal.”

Many of the federal workers who came to share their stories said they feel like pawns in a game between the president and congress, except it’s the federal employees working without a paycheck who lose.

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) said “none of these agencies in which the workers are furloughed or working without pay are not involved in border security, wall issues, and yet they're closed. The unanimous consent request we made was to open those governments based upon the appropriation bills that had already passed the United States Senate, under Republican leadership, but bipartisan bills.”

Senators Cardin and Van Hollen will take the stories they’ve heard back to Washington and the president, but at 21 days and counting, the partial government shutdown doesn’t appear to have an end in sight for thousands of federal workers living in Maryland.

“Senator Cardin and I are also working on legislation to try to help a lot of the low wage employees that work for government contractors,” Van Hollen said.

“We have given him a way to move forward, to reopen government, which makes no sense at all to close government, it's hurting people, it's hurting our economy,” Cardin said.