Furloughed, but not forgotten: Congress pushes DHS shutdown pay

By Jory Heckman
Federal News Radio

In case of a Friday shutdown at the Department of Homeland Security, the House and Senate have both proposed bills that would give retroactive pay to the agency’s 30,000 furloughed employees.

The Senate bill would guarantee pay for emergency DHS personnel — 85 to 88 percent of the agency’s total workforce — in the event of a shutdown. If the shutdown were to happen, workers would receive their standard pay "at the earliest date possible after the lapse in appropriations ends, regardless of scheduled pay dates."

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), sponsor of the Senate bill, said the legislation will give peace of mind to the DHS workforce.

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"They will stand guard, screen passengers, and keep Americans safe from harm with the unnecessary distraction of not knowing exactly when they might receive their next paycheck," Cardin said in a press release. "It is our responsibility to assure these public servants, mostly middle class and struggling to get by, they will be made whole again when this politically generated crisis finally ends."

A bloc of 14 Democratic senators have co-sponsored Cardin’s bill. 

"The Coast Guard, Border Protection, Customs, TSA at the airports, and the workers protecting us from cybersecurity threats … should not get IOUs," said bill co-sponsor Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. "We have to give them respect. We have to pay their salaries."

The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents a majority of Customs and Border Protection’s employees, supports the bill.

"The large majority of Customs and Border Protection employees represented by NTEU will be required to work without pay until a shutdown ends.  That is outrageous treatment for the brave employees we entrust with keeping our country safe and we join with Senator Cardin to try to avoid it," NTEU President Colleen Kelley said.

On the House side, Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.) introduced the DHS Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act on Tuesday, which would also ensure that DHS employees get paid for working during the shutdown.

"We thank the congressmen for recognizing that federal employees are not the cause of any shutdown and should not be punished by being deprived of their pay," said American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox.


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