Rebooting the federal government after a shutdown is no small task, but after the latest record-breaking stall, many federal workers are still waiting for their back pay nearly two weeks after the government reopened its doors.
The Washington Post highlighted Alfreda Dennis-Bowyer, a U.S. Department of Agriculture employee with decades of experience who worked for no pay through the shutdown.
While the meat inspector anticipated a check for about $9,000, she was shocked to receive just $250:
“When I saw that $250 I thought, ‘What in the world is this? Where’s the rest of my money?’ ” said 63-year-old Dennis-Bowyer. The underwhelming check turned out to be a reward for working through the shutdown. Because of glitches with the USDA payroll system, she didn’t get her full back pay until Wednesday, nearly two weeks after the shutdown ended. About 120 inspectors are still waiting.
They are among thousands of employees who have experienced delays or anomalies with paychecks at the federal agencies that went dark. Many say they initially received half of what they were owed after working without pay or being furloughed. Others were stunned by what appeared to be excessive tax withholding. And some — the exact number has not been provided by government officials — had received no pay as of Thursday afternoon.
But government experts told The Post that difficulties getting everything up and running again should be expected, like glitches in the payroll system:
As a rule, the federal government can’t be turned off and on like a reading lamp. The funding lapse that began Dec. 22 caught many agency officials off guard, and the 35 days of the shutdown had a chaotic and improvisational quality that probably contributed to the chaos of the restart.
The paycheck problem cropped up in the National Finance Center, which operates out of the USDA and runs the payroll for many of the government agencies affected by the shutdown. The center was given only a few days to process two full pay cycles for more than 600,000 employees, and had to modify its systems to process 1,343,456 disbursements totaling $5 billion in gross salary, USDA spokesman Tim Murtaugh said.