The partial government shutdown hit about 15,000 federal workers in Colorado hard on Friday.

That marked the first day that federal employees for unfunded agencies didn’t get paychecks.

About 15,000 of the state’s 52,000 federal workers are affected by the shutdown, reports the office of U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Colorado Democrat.

All told, an estimated 800,000 federal workers across the country missed their paychecks for the first time Friday since the shutdown began at midnight Dec. 22.

Some affected workers are deemed “essential” and are working without pay, such as the Transportation Security Administration security screeners at Denver International Airport and guards at the state’s federal prisons. In other cases, they’re staying home.

In Colorado, agencies heavily affected by the shutdown — with many or most of their workers not getting paid — include the Departments of Interior (parent of the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management) and of Agriculture (overseeing national forests and the Farm Service Agency), as well as the National Archives and Records Administration based in Broomfield and the Environmental Protection Agency, whose Region 8 headquarters are in downtown Denver.

Sherrie Kanard, an EPA pesticide enforcement officer in Denver for more than 20 years, isn’t considered essential, so she isn’t working. She’s her family’s primary breadwinner, and she and her new husband recently put down a deposit for a home in the mountains.

“I joined the government because I liked the work, the stability and the benefits,” Kanard said. But since the shutdown in 2013, Congress and the White House seem to be ensuring that government is an unreliable employer, she said.

“There will be a breaking point when the government won’t be able to get qualified employees,” she said.

The furlough has been hard on Kanard’s family, she said, especially her two special-needs sons.

Her younger son has autism, behavioral issues, developmental delays and a sensory processing disorder. Most of his services are covered under a support waiver, but her older son needs a $150-an-hour therapist every week, as well as medications and other services that aren’t covered.

Kanard spent much of Friday on the phone with creditors, asking what they’re doing for federal employees. Most have been helpful, she said, but she worries about the mortgage payment, whether they can buy the mountain home and the impact on her credit.

One creditor asked for a copy of her furlough notice. It’s in an email on her computer at the EPA, and under the shutdown rules, she can’t access it.

Friday, she also applied for unemployment but said the system isn’t geared toward the temporarily unemployed. She’ll get about one-third of her pay.

When stressed, Kanard said, her older son has difficulty controlling his emotions and has had autistic meltdowns in school. The younger son’s stress is triggering seizures, which means trips to the hospital and more medication.

Kanard is stressed, too. “I’m dripping in it.”

Scientific research also has stalled. The National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have offices in Boulder, and Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey has at least 10 laboratories across the Front Range.

“Furloughed government scientists are banned from any form of work activity — they cannot so much as open an email,” The Washington Post reported.

Still working, though, is NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, whose lab monitors solar flares that could disrupt communications and the nation’s electrical grid.

Some agencies aren’t significantly affected because their funding was approved: the military, the Department of Energy (and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden) and the Department of Labor. And the mail still is delivered because the U.S. Postal Service is self-funded.

The shutdown was sparked when President Donald Trump refused to sign appropriations bills passed by the then-Republican-controlled Congress unless he it included billions of dollars for a wall along the Mexican border. Trump now is demanding $5.7 billion for the wall in exchange for reopening the government.

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Negotiations with Democratic leaders in the House and Senate broke down Wednesday, and Trump stormed out of the meeting. They haven’t met since.

Friday, though, the House and Senate passed bills that will provide back pay to federal workers once the shutdown ends, and Trump is expected to sign it.

Kanard said she doesn’t oppose border security, but she wants to get back to protecting people from pesticides.

Trump claims he wants the border wall for the American people, she said, “but he’s harming 800,000 Americans directly, including contractors” and businesses affected indirectly.

“It’s frustrating and scary. I don’t see either side giving in anytime soon,” Kanard said.

The shutdown, the longest in history, is especially hard for federal workers who don’t have enough savings to cover their bills.

About 420,000 federal employees were deemed essential and are working unpaid. An additional 380,000 are staying home without pay.

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Government contractors,indefinitely placed on unpaid leave, won’t get compensated for lost hours.

Thursday, about 150 federal workers called for an end to the shutdown in a downtown Denver rally and delivered a letter to Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s office at the U.S. Customs House, thanking Gardner for being the first senator to break with Trump and call for an end to the shutdown.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there’s any end in sight,” said Tim Snyder of the American Federation of Government Employees. Back pay will be nice, Snyder said, “but we don’t know how long (the shutdown) will be, and they can’t get that back pay until the shutdown ends.”

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Federal workers also want Gardner to pressure Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow a vote on the appropriations bills that could force Trump to reopen the government.

“This falls on McConnell,” Snyder said. “Stop the shutdown, put these people back to work, and then go back to the table and negotiate on proper funding for border security.”

No one opposes border security, he said, but it doesn’t make sense for Border Patrol agents to work without pay. “How does that promote any security?”

Some TSA agents might leave federal service. Some at Thursday’s rally have started driving for Uber and Lyft for pay.

Food banks across the nation, including Colorado’s Food Bank of the Rockies, are reaching out to furloughed employees, Snyder said. “I never thought in my day I would see federal employees inquire about food banks or them reaching out to us to help.”

Up to 40 percent of those affected by the shutdown are military veterans, he noted. “We take pride in supporting America’s veterans. How can you make veterans go without a paycheck?”

Perlmutter announced Thursday that his office will provide meals and other resources to affected federal employees. Plenty of those live in his district, which has 28 federal agencies at the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, with more than 6,000 employees furloughed.

His Lakewood office, 12600 W. Alameda Avenue, will be open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays to help federal workers and other affected constituents.

“It is never acceptable for the dysfunction in Washington, D.C., to harm our federal workers and so many of the hardworking people in the 7th Congressional District,” Perlmutter said.

“Friday marks the first missed paycheck for thousands of Coloradans, and I’ve heard from many constituents who are concerned about how they’re going to make ends meet.”

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., announced Thursday that she won’t accept her congressional salary until federal employees get paid.

If the shutdown continues through Saturday, it could drive the U.S. unemployment rate up by about 0.2 percentage points, said Ben Herzon of US Economics.

“That’s because the 380,000 furloughed employees (about 0.2 percent of the labor force) are considered ‘unemployed, on temporary layoff’ if they miss work for the entire reference week.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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