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October 16, 2013

Federal workers, financial experts still cautious

A temporary deal could lead to more worry in a few months

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Even with a nearly last-hour compromise to end the partial government shutdown Wednesday night, many of the federal employees in Jeffersonville were not relieved.

Mary O’Rourke, union steward with the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1430, said a lot of her fellow Census Bureau workers are still worried that the government shutdown will continue and many have filled out applications for other jobs. She added that the census workers have stopped short of taking a second job, for now.

“We’re scared that we’re not going back,” O’Rourke said. “If they called me and told me to come back right now, I’d be ready to go back to work. We need our jobs. We want our jobs.”

O’Rourke — and a lot of her fellow federal workers — are angry that they’ve been kept away from work for 16 days.

“We actually thought it would be resolved before now,” she said. “I really, really did not think it would last.”

She’s also upset that Congress delayed the vote until Wednesday evening.

“Why don’t they just do it now?” she asked during an interview early Wednesday afternoon. “We wouldn’t wait to finish our job until after dinner. I would tell them you all need to get to the table and solve this problem, and I don’t think they should get paid until they figure this out; quit squabbling and quit pointing fingers.”

O’Rourke added that many of the bureau’s workers never believed they would be furloughed and that Congress would be able to reach a last-minute deal. But because no deal was made, she said many of the federal employees locally have been left searching for what to do.

“They are hurting,” she said of her fellow workers. “A lot of the people there survive paycheck to paycheck.”

For now, unemployment, even though it may take a few weeks to receive, has been able to bridge the gap for many workers. And as long as the workers can cover their basic expenses, like utilities and rent or a mortgage, they’re willing to forgo job hunting, O’Rourke said.

“We all applied for unemployment,” she said. “When I went down to apply for unemployment, half the Census Bureau was there.”

Another level of uncertainty exists if Congress is only able to compromise on a temporary deal.

“Oh God, I hope they figure something out, we can’t go through this again,” O’Rourke said when asked if it is a temporary deal that is reached. But she added that if the bureau workers are aware the federal shutdown ends on a temporary compromise, the workers would prepare for another shutdown a lot better.

“If they don’t do this, it’s going to affect everyone across the U.S.” she said.

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