MARIETTA — Tammy Sims never expected to take a job as a cafeteria monitor at an elementary school.
But Wednesday morning, the furloughed investigative analyst for the Internal Revenue Service picked up her employee badge from Marietta’s central office and reported to work at Sawyer Road Elementary.
The single mother of two is one of dozens of out-of-work federal workers taking the school district up on its offer for temporary employment until the president and Congress can reach an agreement to reopen the federal government and return hundreds of thousands of Americans to work.
Sims, who has lived in Marietta about five years and worked for the IRS for 18, contacted the district after receiving an email Superintendent Grant Rivera sent to parents last week.
“When a parent or guardian is furloughed, children are impacted,” Rivera’s letter read, in part. “If you are a parent/guardian of a Marietta City Schools student and your family has been impacted by the partial federal government shutdown, we invite you to join our Blue Devil family … even if just for a short period of time.”
Sims has one daughter who is a junior at Marietta High and another in her second year at Howard University.
As the partial shutdown dragged into its 33rd day, the sole breadwinner for her family said she has gone weeks without a paycheck and has had to dip into her savings to pay her mortgage and make ends meet.
“I’m good for now, but I don’t want to deplete everything that I have,” she said. “That’s why I took advantage of this opportunity to bring some income in because I have no idea when this shutdown will end.”
The school district is putting affected government employees to work as bus monitors, parking lot attendants, cafeteria monitors and substitute teachers.
Spokeswoman Tammy Garnes said the school system hoped to help out Marietta parents, but the HR department has been inundated with phone calls and emails from out-of-work federal employees from across metro Atlanta.
“We’re helping people who live in Fairburn, in McDonough,” Garnes said. “They don’t live anywhere near here. They have no affiliation with the district. They just heard about it and they’re desperate.”
Tyler Gwynn, the district’s assistant superintendent of human resources, said his team has been slammed with phone calls from furloughed employees.
Though they don’t typically search for “temporary workers,” Gwynn said Marietta’s HR department is happy to help put folks back to work quickly.
“The bottom line is that if we can help one person, it’s worth it,” he said. “If we can meet the needs of Ms. Sims’ family right now, then it’s a win.”
Troi Danley, a staffing supervisor and account manager for Kelly Educational Staffing, the company Marietta City Schools contracts with to find substitute teachers and other employees, said she’s already scheduled interviews with about 30 furloughed workers.
“They made the announcement last Thursday and I already have 30 candidates,” she said. “We’re definitely seeing an influx.”
Sims said she’s been through several shutdowns before, but never missed a single paycheck. Now, she’ll make about $12 an hour keeping an eye on little ones as they eat.
She has some experience in education having worked as a paraprofessional years ago at a high school in her home state of New York.
As for her co-workers at the IRS, Sims said everyone is trying to scrape by. But they remain hopeful the shutdown will come to an end soon.
“We have to maintain,” she said, joking that her youngest is just happy her mother didn’t end up with a job at the high school. “I’m watching my savings diminish so anything coming in is a great help right now, especially with a daughter in college and a daughter in high school.”