DES MOINES, Iowa — The government shutdown over the weekend forced 900 Iowa National Guard members on to unpaid furlough.
“Regardless, if they’re on furlough or not they need to be paid because they are always on standby,” said Indianola resident Mindie Dumas.
No one was on standby to guard a federally managed road next to the Iowa National Guard headquarters in Johnston, so it was closed.
“When you have to put half your workforce on furlough it makes everything harder, it takes longer. I mean in our particular case, if you look at, for instance, aviation, almost all of our full-time aviation assets are in the category that have been furloughed,” said Colonel Greg Hapgood with the Iowa National Guard.
A similar shutdown happened back in 2013 under former President Obama; that one lasted nearly 17 days. According to the Congressional Research Service, 40% of the federal workforce was furloughed at that time.
“Probably a similarity between shutdowns, whether it was in the mid-1990s or 2013 or now is just the frustration that people feel. They just want to go do what it is they do every day, put on the uniform, go to work, ” Colonel Hapgood said.
During the current furlough, the guard is operating severely understaffed, and if a natural disaster hits, the state of Iowa would have to pay soldiers to work.
“Let’s say, for instance, there was a huge winter storm, we could put them in a State of Iowa status and the state of Iowa would pay for them to bring them onto duty,” Colonel Hapgood said.
Colonel Hapgood says the possibility of an unpaid furlough is something Iowa National Guard members are aware of before joining.