Thousands of federal employees to work regardless of government shutdown

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Even if the government shuts down later this week, thousands of federal employees will continue to go to work while it’s unclear when they’ll get paid.

As the holiday travel season begins, the Transportation Security Administration’s agents, air traffic controllers and customs agents are all among the people deemed essential. They still report to work even during a shutdown. CBS reported more than 420,000 federal employees would work without pay, citing an analysis by Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

At the National Weather Service’s office in Raleigh, acting meteorologist-in-charge Jonathan Blaes said 19 of the 20 staff members there still have to report to work as well.

“We’re here to do our job. And, we let other folks make those decisions they have to. But, we’ll be here on Christmas. We’ll be here every night, in bad weather or not,” Blaes said. “We’ve been tremendously busy weather wise here, to be honest with you, with multiple hurricanes, floods and now a winter storm. So, I know our staff is tired. And, the holidays are a little harder because they’re away from their families.”

This could be the third time this year the federal government has shut down. It did so for a matter of hours in early February and for three days in February.

The length of the shutdown will affect whether employees’ pay is delayed. A shutdown in 2013 lasted more than two weeks.

The latest potential shutdown would occur in the midst of the holiday season.

“We budget ourselves and just prepare ourselves to handle things if, unfortunately, the paycheck comes late or is deferred,” Blaes said. “Our youngest employees who are new here have never gone through this before. We’ve given them a little explanation of how this works. But, it’s business as usual.”

He said the NWS will continue to send out severe weather alerts but will curtail non-essential work such as tours and visiting citizen groups.

“Lapse in funding, holidays, illness — we have people here to protect the citizens,” he said.

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