Government shutdown takes toll on hurricane ravaged Panhandle

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The partial government shutdown has stretched on for nearly two weeks now, and as a result, 400,000 federal employees nationwide continue working without pay. 

The missed paychecks have been especially devastating for workers in Florida. In recent years, federal prison staff was cut by about 6,000 employees.

The Government shutdown means the remaining 36,000 aren’t receiving paychecks.

“It used to be double the work for half the pay, but now it's double the work for no pay,” said President of the Tallahassee Chapter the American Federation of Government Employees, Reay Coleman Jr. 

Florida is home to six federal prisons, housing more than 10,000 inmates. 

“We were given a message that said come to work or face disciplinary action,” said Coleman. "It was pretty much that blunt.”

He says the shutdown couldn’t have come at a worse time for federal workers in the Panhandle.

"A lot of us are still recovering from Hurricane Michael and all the tragedy that left,” said Coleman. "Specifically Tallahassee and the Mariana area, both which have prisons.”

Union reps say even if a budget deal was struck now, federal prison workers still wouldn't’ see a paycheck until Jan. 25 at the earliest.

To the dismay of Coleman and 400,000 other federal employees working without pay nationwide, the now Democratic House’s plan to restore funding for agencies like the federal prison system is likely dead on arrival in the Senate.

“We're being used as pawns in like a political chess game and it's happened a couple of times before, but this one feels a little different because there seems to be no traction being made,” said Coleman.

While federal employees have continued working without pay, Coleman points out the 535 elected officials tasked with crafting a budget along with the President and Vice President, continue to receive their salaries despite shutdown.

There are 2.1 million federal workers nationwide. 

While 400,000 continue working without pay, an additional 380,000 nonessential employees have been placed on leaves of absence.