DES MOINES, Iowa — As the longest partial U.S. government shutdown came to a close Friday, many federal employees in Iowa initially rejoiced. “We just all wanted to stand up and holler in the office. We were happy to hear that,” said Lynda Mercer a federal government employee.
If a funding deal is not made by February 15, Angela Friestad, who is an IRS employee, understands the joy could quickly change. She said, “There`s mixed feelings because it is only for three weeks so are we going to be facing the same scenario in three weeks?”
The shutdown left Iowans battling to make ends meet. “I went four weeks without working. You go stir crazy. You get cabin fever. It is just demoralizing,” said Friestad, a single mother of four.
The 35-day shutdown left many federal workers without pay but some say they are thankful they did not go without help. Lynda said, “The food bank was overly generous with people. My friend said the water company helped them. Insurance companies were putting extensions on things.” Friestad added, “I borrowed from friends and family just to get my bills paid on time because unemployment didn’t kick in until this week.”
A heavy burden may have been lifted, but not entirely removed. “People are already planning, how can I be prepared for three weeks from now,” Friestad said.
For now, federal employees like Angela and her family can get back to some form of normalcy. She said, “Now that I know back pay is coming and I’ll be able to pay the loans I’ve taken out, we are probably going to go get some dinner. Finally breath and get out of the house.”
Federal government employees could receive back pay as early as next week.