|
|
|
MailTribune.com
  • Federal workers stuck in limbo

    They're biding time during shutdown, worrying about pay and backlogs
  • At a time when he is normally swamped at work, Jim LeMay has taken advantage of the past two weeks to make a few improvements around his Ashland home.
    • email print
  • At a time when he is normally swamped at work, Jim LeMay has taken advantage of the past two weeks to make a few improvements around his Ashland home.
    "I have gotten a lot done around the house, catching up on all those projects I've been needing to get to," said LeMay, 59, a geneticist at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, the nation's top wildlife forensics facility.
    He is one of the local federal employees furloughed two weeks ago following the ongoing political stalemate in Washington, D.C., which has left parts of the government shut down.
    Nationwide, the shutdown has furloughed some 350,000 federal workers. An estimated 2,000 federal employees reside in the region, many of whom have been furloughed.
    "Financially, we're doing fine right now," said LeMay, noting his wife, Marilyn Bailey, is a local Realtor. "We have maintained a cash reserve for events like this. I was there during the 1996 furlough, so we were prepared."
    But that doesn't mean everything is rosy, stressed LeMay, who has worked for Uncle Sam for more than 23 years.
    "The down side is all my work is piling up — it is not going away," he said. His work involves identifying species in the illegal killing and trading of wildlife.
    In addition, LeMay faces deadlines to complete a proficiency test as well as an individual certification program.
    "So it is going to be a huge hardship when I go back to work," he said. "We are always overworked — we don't have enough employees already."
    Pepper Trail, 60, the senior forensic scientist in ornithology at the laboratory, also is concerned about the mounting backlog of cases.
    "Everybody will be backed up," he said, later adding, "It's extremely frustrating not to be able to do the job we want to do."
    The end of one pay period extended into the forced furlough, but workers haven't been paid since, said Trail, an accomplished poet who has been writing "furlough haikus" while he waits for the stalemate in D.C. to end.
    "My wife works and we have some savings, so it hasn't been an immediate critical financial situation for us yet," he said, although noting he knows there are other federal workers who already have reached that point.
    However, he is concerned that a bill to pay federal workers for wages lost by the furlough has yet to be approved by both houses of Congress.
    "If it doesn't pass, it could be difficult," he said.
    Over in the Illinois Valley, John Roth, 62, the natural resource specialist at the Oregon Caves National Monument, said he would like to get back to work.
    "I'm pretty anxious to catch up on things," said the former science teacher, who has been working at the monument for 23 years.
    Like many others, Roth, noting he can't go on vacation, has been working around his home. In addition to working outside, he has spent hours writing on a book project.
    "We're like most folks, we're OK so far," he said. "We can survive for some weeks. But it will be quite a financial blow if we don't get reimbursed."
    Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 541-776-4496 or email him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.
Reader Reaction

      calendar