Wednesday, December 24, 2014


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City's Federal Workers Back On The Job After 16-Day Shutdown

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After a 16-day shutdown, federal government workers here in the city are back at work.

President Barack Obama early this morning signed a bill passed by the House and Senate to reopen the government and raise the nation's debt limit before the midnight deadline.

The Republican-led House passed the measure 285 to 144 after the Democrat-led Senate approved it by a vote of 81 to 18.

The legislation funds the government until January 15, and allows the U.S. Treasury to keep borrowing until February 7, essentially preventing the nation from defaulting on its loans.

It also includes back pay for furloughed federal government workers, who have been without a paycheck for the duration of the impasse.

While the deal is considered a win for Democrats, President Obama was reluctant to claim victory while delivering a statement Thursday.

"We know that families have gone without paychecks or services that they really on. We know that potential homebuyers have gotten fewer mortgages, and small business loans have been put on hold. We know that consumers have cut back on spending, and half of all CEOs say that the shutdown and the threat of shutdown set back their plans to hire over the next six months," Obama said.

At 26 Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan, workers who spoke with NY1 say while they're glad to be back they are not looking forward to playing catch-up.

Many also said they felt used and that Congress played with fire, financially, and it was the workers' bottom line that got singed because they had to do without paychecks. 

"Luckily I have savings, so that lasted me. Still have to pay bills, my electric, but glad to be back to work now," said Lougene Shoum, a federal worker.

"I knew this month I was okay, could pay my mortgage. But I didn't know what would happen, I would've taken money out of my 401k," said Debra Rich, a federal worker. "Most of us are middle-income people and I'm not sure anyone was really thinking about that."

"We're appreciative to our congressional leadership to include back-pay for us in the deal cut last night, but we recognize that come January 15 or in January, we may be back doing this all over again," said Paul Sacker of Local 3911 American Federation of Government Employees.

Local business owners are also keeping expectations low. Deli owner Mario Martone says revenue at his eatery is down at least 35 percent since the shutdown kept workers home. 

"Eventually it will come back, slowly, because they're not going to have the money.  First of all they're waiting to get paid," Martone said.

Many New Yorkers are now watching to see if Congress takes up President Obama's invitation to find an alternative to what he calls Washington's bad habit of governing by crisis.

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