Countdown To Shutdown: One Federal Worker's Story

U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., USA
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With one eye glued to C-SPAN for updates on their status, federal government workers are feverishly preparing the final work steps a total shutdown requires.

There's plenty to do before what appears will be the first full government shutdown since 1996.

AOL Jobs spoke with a senior manager in the Department of Commerce, who shared what's happening in the world of the "non-essential" employee on condition no names be used as it's bad enough being furloughed. She wouldn't want to be fired.

First off, the government has changed the language. Now it's "excepted and non-excepted" as opposed to the apparently more offensive "essential and non-essential."

The department held a meeting last Thursday and that's where people learned their status. Basically if you're essential for life and liberty, you're on. So that's VA hospitals, people dealing with roads and bridges, federal prison workers.

This worker's entire department was not excepted and told to watch the news because once the government shuts down they are immediately forbidden from using any government-issued Blackberries or web portals to communicate.

"Most people I know live paycheck to paycheck. We don't know if we'll get paid for the time or not. Our pay raises got frozen two years ago. A lot of people in the government were furloughed over the summer. Government workers have already been taking a hit with frozen pay grades and furloughs.

"Obamacare is the law. Why are we taking the hit?"

Ironically, the workers who face furlough are also scrambling to handle the many requirements involved with possible shutdown.

Already, airfares, hotel rooms and other travel expenses have been incurred. So cancellations are being made.

"From what I understand," she added, "it's an IT mess. You have to allow some people to get paid and stop payment to others. It's a real IT challenge. Some employees are 'excepted.' Their paychecks continue to accrue. But they don't get paid either. They get an IOU."

Personally, says this Commerce employee, "I feel that they knew this was coming and it's just a partisan game where the Republicans are arguing they want to not shut the government down and then they're filibustering to avoid a vote."

Oh, and the work of Congress is "excepted," once they get to work, that is.

"The Democrats are saying they don't want to shut it down, but they didn't go to work on Sunday, then they're not coming to work until 2 p.m. today. It's very frustrating."

Blast emails are being prepared offering more guidance for people on Tuesday. Which systems will be shut off? Which will still be operational?

"I 100% blame the Republicans who are making a game out of the federal budget. They want to blame Barack Obama. And using Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, as a hostage to try to hold up the budget is outrageous. It really is," she says.

"I don't have money to pay my mortgage if I don't get paid."

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