I-Team: No taxpayer dollars saved by shutdown

October 17, 2013

When business or government lays off employees it's usually intended to save money. Workers forced onto furlough for a few days aren't paid, the wages saved.

That was the case in 2010 when Illinois Governor Pat Quinn ordered several thousand state workers on furlough days. They weren't paid, and tax dollars were saved.

But that's not so now that the 16-day federal government shutdown has ended. While it may have been an inconvenience for federal employees, the savings to taxpayers was zero.

"Agonizing if I had to describe it," said Clarence Hawkins, Chicago federal worker.

The furloughed portion of more than 50,000 federal employees in Illinois began returning to work as usual Thursday morning.

"It was dragging. It's nice to have a vacation but this is the wrong reason for a vacation," said Monica Lacka, Chicago federal worker.

While federal employees didn't ask cause the shutdown or ask for the break from work, now that it is over, they will be paid for the time off. The legislation that brought an end to the shutdown, specifically provides for laid-off federal workers to be paid for the time they were not working.

The checks in the mail Section 115 reads: "Employees furloughed as a result of any lapse in appropriations which begins on or about October 1, 2013, shall be compensated at their standard rate of compensation, for the period of such lapse in appropriations, as soon as practicable after such lapse in appropriations ends."

Even with the end of the shutdown, on Thursday ex-furloughed government workers continued to protest at Chicago's Federal Plaza.

Protesters chanted, "Hey hey ho ho where did all that money go?"

One place the money went: Congress. Under the Constitution, members of Congress are not allowed to stop their own pay. And according to a website that was tracking how much Congress was paid during the shutdown, the total was more than $4 million.

The office of management and budget has told federal employees to expect back pay in their next paycheck, although some union leaders are pushing for special retro paychecks to be cut. And at least one agency, the social security administration, is planning to provide employees with back pay before their next scheduled checks. Despite this, some federal workers say they are still scrambling to make sure bills are paid and creditors don't stick them with late fees.

Copyright © 2023 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.