Roughly 800,000 federal workers missed their first paycheck last Friday.
President Donald Trump just signed a bill that guarantees back pay for the hundreds of thousands of government employees who have been furloughed during the partial government shutdown.
It’s certainly a positive update for workers, many of whom missed their first paycheck last week, but it comes as the president continues to demand more than $5 billion to fund his border wall, a fight that is keeping the government closed and forcing them to go without pay in the interim.
The newly signed law aims to swiftly reimburse workers once the government is open: It not only guarantees that workers will receive their back pay, but it also specifies that they will get it as quickly as possible after the president signs appropriations bills that end the shutdown, even if that means some paychecks will be sent out off cycle.
As an official for the American Federation of Government Employees union recently laid out, it takes at least two to three days for the government to process payroll, so workers would likely receive their back pay after at least that much time elapsed.
The law will help address one of the chief pain points of the shutdown, which has left federal workers scrambling to cover day-to-day costs like rent, utilities, and medication while they wait for their next paycheck to come in. Its benefits, however, likely won’t be felt for some time since negotiations over the shutdown have pretty much broken down. As a sign of how little progress is being made, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday urged Trump to postpone his State of the Union address (scheduled for January 29) until the shutdown is resolved.
In the interim, Democrats have proposed other measures to protect workers from the fallout of the longest shutdown in US history. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) have introduced legislation, according to HuffPost, that would “prohibit landlords and creditors from taking action against federal workers or contractors who are hurt by the shutdown and cannot pay rent or repay loans.” And Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) has introduced a bill that would cover back pay for federal contractors as well.
The shutdown is now in its 26th day and there still isn’t a clear end in sight. At the very least, this recent action helps ensure that hundreds of thousands of federal workers will get the pay they missed once it’s over.