Bill for Back Pay for Government Workers Passed by Congress, Headed to Trump

By Zachary Stieber

Congress passed a bill on Jan. 11, that would guarantee back pay for federal workers who weren’t going to get paychecks on Friday due to the partial government shutdown.

The legislation would also guarantee payment for employees affected by any future shutdowns.

The bill passed the House 411-7 and the Senate unanimously.

“On the first day that some of our federal employees will miss their paycheck, Congress is saying and guaranteeing that workers will be paid not only for this shutdown, but God forbid if we have any future ones, that their pay will be guaranteed,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, reported The Hill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has been wary about bringing bills to the Senate floor that President Donald Trump wouldn’t sign, said that the president told him he’d sign it.

Second closed sign National Archives Museum
A closed sign in front of the National Archives Museum in Washington on Dec. 28, 2018, during the partial government shutdown. (Holly Kellum/NTD)

“I had an opportunity to talk to President Trump a few moments ago and wanted to indicate to our colleagues that he will sign the bill that we’ve been discussing here to guarantee that government workers who’ve been displaced as a result of the shutdown will ultimately be compensated,” McConnell told his colleagues late Jan. 10.

Vice President Mike Pence said Friday during an appearance at the headquarters of Customs and Border Protection in Washington that “Your families will get your paychecks” after the shutdown.

The partial shutdown started on Dec. 22, 2018, and affects about 25 percent of the government and 15 percent of the government workforce.

According to projections by the staff of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), vice chair of the Appropriations Committee, the shutdown led to the furlough of more than 380,000 workers while another 420,000 employees that are deemed essential would continue working, but wouldn’t receive pay until the shutdown ends.

Trump leaves for Texas border
President Donald Trump speaks to media before departing the White House en route to the U.S.-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas, on Jan. 10, 2019. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

No End in Sight

The shutdown continues without an end in sight due to a standoff between the Trump administration and most Republicans against most Democrats.

Trump has insisted that appropriations include approximately $5.6 billion in funding for the southern border wall, calling the flood of illegal immigrants—including a record number of family units—a humanitarian crisis.

The president underscored his case twice this week. First, he highlighted the stunning data surrounding the crisis in his first address to the nation on Tuesday night, a speech seen by some 41 million people.

ronil singh with family
Officer Ronil Singh, of the Newman Police Department, was gunned down on Dec. 26, 2019, by an illegal alien from Mexico, authorities said. He’s survived by his wife, Anamika, and their five-month-old child. (Stanislaus Sheriff’s Department)

Then, on Thursday, he traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border to meet with law enforcement agents along with family members of some of those killed or allegedly killed by illegal aliens, including Reggie Singh, the brother of California police officer Ronil Singh, who was gunned down the day after Christmas while making a traffic stop.

Because Democrats have refused to give him any funding, Trump has moved closer to declaring a national emergency. The sides have engaged in multiple rounds of discussions but don’t seem any closer to a solution than before the New Year.

Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have downplayed the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants entering the country, arguing that border security is possible without the wall if technology at the border is advanced enough. But Border Patrol agents and other experts agree that walls haves been shown to be effective in multiple places along the border.

td bank in new york
TD bank in the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan, New York, on July 7, 2015. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

Banks Offer Help

With the partial government shutdown nearing the end of its third week, banks are offering help to customers who are facing financial hardship as a result, earning praise from the Trump administration.

The affected employees received their last paycheck Dec. 28, according to Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney and were slated to miss their Jan. 11 paycheck.

Aside from the employees, the shutdown has also hit contractors and vendors who do business with the affected agencies.

On Jan. 8, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin commended mortgage providers and other financial institutions for assisting people affected by the shutdown.

“We applaud the actions of mortgage lenders, mortgage servicers, and other financial institutions, including Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, that are taking steps to assist individuals experiencing temporary financial difficulties due to the government shutdown,” Mnuchin said in a release. “The Administration is committed to doing all that we can, consistent with the law, to alleviate the effects of the shutdown.”

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, Chase, TD Bank, Citibank, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo were all offering government employees various measures to try to relieve the burden they’re feeling due to the shutdown.

For instance, Bank of America was offering several forms of relief, including fee refunds, waivers, repayment plans, and loan modifications, spokesman Lawrence Grayson said.

“We will work with our clients on a case by case basis to help address their financial needs,” he said, encouraging the customers affected by the shutdown to call the bank.

Epoch Times reporter Petr Svab contributed to this report.