When the government shutdown was first implemented, Steve Markle, a teacher at the Terre Haute Federal Prison and treasurer of the Local 720 Union, said many employees thought it would be like most shutdowns they’ve experienced.
“At the beginning everybody thought it was going to be like every other shutdown and eventually they would come to a conclusion, they would make an agreement, and the government would back up,” Markle said.
That wasn’t the case as the shutdown was the longest in American history, causing federal employees across the country to go over a month without pay.
“No matter how much you have in your savings account, you’re now talking about a month’s worth of pay you lost, and you have try to pay your bills with what you have,” Markle said.
Although employees at the Terre Haute Federal Prison were expected to work without pay. Kenny Swick, president of the Local 720 Union and correctional officer, says workers morale stayed high and they began to count on each other.
“People really came together and helped each other out. A lot of ride sharing, a lot of staff helping each other out with out of pocket expenses,” Swick said.
Not only were employees helping each other but Swick says the help from the local community was crucial. “The businesses, the utility companies, the mortgage companies, they were all asbolutely amazing during this shutdown,” he said.
With another shutdown looming on February 15th if funding to keep the government open is not approved, Swick says staff at the Terre Haute Federal Prison are already thinking ahead.
“It’s not over with yet and we’re not out of the woods yet. Right now most of our staff are just making plans. When they get their next two pays, what do I need to buy? You know, what do I need to stock up on? What do I need to get prepared for? Because we don’t know,” Swick said.
Both Swick and Markle say they are unsure exactly when they will receive their backpay but time and attendance clerks were called in today to start reporting pay.
Swick and Markle also encourage community members to contact their congressional leaders to prevent another shutdown in the future.