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Federal workers bear brunt of budget breakdown

Capital Rochelle

November 14, 1995
Web posted at: 1:15 a.m. EST

From Correspondent Carl Rochelle

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The budget battle may be between the White House and the Congress, but it is federal workers who will feel the pain.

"I think it's horrible that the two can't get it together enough. They are getting paid, but they don't give a damn about us," said Mark Causey, who is employed by the Food and Drug Administration. (88K AIFF sound or 88K WAV sound)

More than 800,000 so-called "non-essential" federal workers will be temporarily laid off if the government shuts down. Many received the word on their computers by e-mail telling them to come to work Tuesday morning no matter what they hear on the news. If they are not needed when they arrive, they will be told to go home.

"I'm surprised to some extent that they use or hold employees of the government hostage to an agenda that really has nothing immediately and directly to do with those employees," said Stanley Cohen who works for the Department of Education.

The uncertainty is hitting hard at some places like the Smithsonian Institution's Sackler Gallery.

"We panicked for a while that the catalogs would not arrive for the opening. Now that we have the catalogs, we're panicking that the opening may not take place," said Jenny So, who has been working on the exhibit for the Smithsonian.

More than a million federal workers, declared essential, will stay on the job. But some may not be paid until things return to normal.

"This is a terrible impact. You are telling some people to come to work on a promise to pay, and you are telling other people that you're going to be furloughed," said John Sturdivant of the American Federation of Government Employees.

Most people think of Washington when they think of federal workers, but in fact only about 150,000 of those facing layoffs work in the nation's capital.

The closure is unlikely to save taxpayers any money, in fact it could raise costs. In the past, the Congress has voted to pay the full salary of federal workers so no one lost money. That could mean a paid vacation for those told to stay home, but also more overtime to make up for lost work.

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