During furlough, workers finding ways to fill time
by Russ Bynum
October 13, 2013 10:47 PM | 1357 views | 2 2 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Furloughed federal worker Jonathan Corso pets his dog, 14-year-old Dixie, outside his home in Decatur on Oct. 4.  Corso, who works in the Atlanta regional office of the Economic Development Administration, was sent home because of the government shutdown the same week his family’s dog, which has terminal cancer, was given only about a month to live. He’s among more than 800,000 furloughed federal employees trying to keep their bills paid and keep busy during unpaid time off from work. <br> The Associated Press
Furloughed federal worker Jonathan Corso pets his dog, 14-year-old Dixie, outside his home in Decatur on Oct. 4. Corso, who works in the Atlanta regional office of the Economic Development Administration, was sent home because of the government shutdown the same week his family’s dog, which has terminal cancer, was given only about a month to live. He’s among more than 800,000 furloughed federal employees trying to keep their bills paid and keep busy during unpaid time off from work.
The Associated Press
slideshow
They’re experienced research engineers and park rangers still in college, attorneys who enforce environmental regulations and former soldiers who took civilian jobs with the military after coming home from war.

And all of them have one thing in common: They were sent home on unpaid furlough last week after a political standoff between the president and Congress forced a partial shutdown of the federal government. More than 800,000 federal workers were affected at first, though the Pentagon has since recalled most of its idled 350,000 employees.

What these sidelined government employees are doing with their spare time varies as widely as the jobs they perform. Some are tightening their budgets at home, watching what they spend on food and other necessities, fearing it could be weeks before they earn another paycheck. Others are having a tough time keeping their workplace projects shelved and agency emails unread.

While Congress and the White House work on a deal to ensure furloughed workers receive back pay once the shutdown ends, some expenses can’t be put off, whether it’s replacing a broken furnace for $6,500 or buying diapers for a baby due before the month ends.

Here are the stories of just a few of the government workers directly affected by the shutdown.

As the government shutdown began its second week, Donna Cebrat was focused on stretching each dollar of her savings under the assumption she might not be able to return to work for a month or longer.

“Instead of having a dinner, I’ll have a bowl of cereal. Maybe for dinner and lunch. Or maybe I’ll go down to McDonald’s for a hamburger off the dollar menu,” said Cebrat, 46, who works for the FBI at its office in Savannah. “Lots of budget cuts. Not that I was living extravagantly before.”

Cebrat makes her living processing requests for public access to FBI records made under the Freedom of Information Act. She lives alone in a middle-class suburb and estimates the money in her savings account could last her anywhere from two to six months.

She checks headlines for any news on negotiations between the president and Congress, but said she avoids reading full stories or watching shutdown reports on TV that would only bring her down further.

“I don’t need to see the name-calling,” Cebrat said. “I just need to see the headline.”

Otherwise, Cebrat has spent her days sanding and repainting her bathroom walls — a new tub, toilet and vanity will have to wait until next year — and taking walks in her neighborhood. She’s avoided trips to the mall or the movies.

Jonathan Corso sat at his dining room table, the signs of a terrible week all around him.

At his feet, his family’s beloved dog, Dixie. The sad-eyed, 14-year-old spaniel/mutt has terminal cancer and the day before had been given only about a month to live. Under his feet, the banging of workmen installing a new $6,500 furnace at his Decatur bungalow after the old one broke.

And there was Corso, home at 9:30 on a Friday morning. He would normally be at work at the Atlanta regional office of the Economic Development Administration, a small federal agency that provides help and construction grants to industrial parks, colleges and local governments.

Corso, 44, and his wife, Liza, who works at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were both furloughed.

In recent years, their federal jobs seemed stable while people working in state and local government and many private companies saw wage freezes or layoffs.

But now this.

The couple has savings, and they and their 7-year-old son should be fine financially for a while.

There have been a few silver linings: The couple went to lunch together on a weekday. Corso, a marathoner, began his daily 10-mile run at 6 a.m. rather than his more onerous 4:45 a.m. usual start time. That allowed him to stay up one night to watch a baseball game.

“We’re trying to make the best of it right now,” Corso said.

Comments
(2)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
unpaid? huh?
|
October 15, 2013
Where did MDJ get the idea these government workers will go unpaid? Their pay may be deferred, but this "furlough" is actually a paid holiday brought to us by our friends in the Tea Party like Gingrey. Its teachers who are really furloughed. They don't work and they don't get paid. These federal government workers WILL be paid for taking a few weeks off.

Why does Gingrey think giving aways weeks of deferred pay vacations to almos a million federal government workers is any kind of leverage that will get him anything other than votes from government workers?

There they go AGAIN! It's our Big Government Republicans.. 2 months of paid vacation just wasn't enough for our government workers, so give them MORE and SAY it's about Obamacare or um the budget or um the debt ceiling or whatever they're saying this week.

Why not admit it's really about landing a Fox News Analyst job for Canada Cruz? FOX, give him the job please so we can all get back to our regularly scheduled routine okay?
Mike In Smyrna
|
October 14, 2013
If a furloughed federal employee signs up for unemployment benefits and they receive back pay once the furlough ends, they will have to repay the unemployment benefits. How does the Georgia Department of Labor verify the benefits have been repaid?
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides