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

Friday marked the first day that federal employees for unfunded agencies didn't get paychecks.

In Colorado, about 15,000 federal workers are impacted in some way by the shutdown, according to U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter's office, out of about 52,000 federal employees in the state.

All told, an estimated 800,000 government workers across the country missed their paychecks for the first time since the shutdown began.

In some cases, those affected workers are deemed "essential" and are doing their jobs 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 impacted by the shutdown -- with many or most of their workers not getting paid -- include the U.S. Department of the Interior (parent of the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management); the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which runs the national forests and the Farm Service Agency); the National Archives and Records Administration, which operates a records center in Broomfield; and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency whose Region 8 headquarters is in downtown Denver.

Sherrie Kanard has worked as a pesticide enforcement officer for the EPA's Region 8 in Denver for more than 20 years. She’s not considered an essential employee, so she’s been sitting at home since the shutdown began. Recently remarried, she’s the 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 told Colorado Politics.

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

The impact of the furlough has been hard on Kanard's family, and especially on her two sons, both special-needs children. The older son has autism and ADHD but is high-functioning, she said. For Kanard that means she pays for the therapy he needs, like the $150 an hour therapist he sees every week as well as medications and other services.

Her younger son also has autism, along with behavioral issues, global developmental delays and a sensory processing disorder. Most of his services are covered under a support waiver.

And they eat, and eat, and eat, and eat, Kanard said. She has full custody of the boys from her first marriage and her ex doesn’t pay child support, she said.

She spent much of Friday on the phone with creditors, asking what they’re doing for federal employees. Most have been helpful, but she worries about paying for the mortgage, whether they'll be able to move forward with the mountain home and the impact to 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 rules governing the shutdown, she isn’t allowed to access it.

Friday, she also applied for unemployment, although she said the system doesn’t appear to be geared toward federal employees who are temporarily unemployed. She’ll get about a third of what she’s paid by the federal government. 

The stress caused by the uncertainty of the shutdown is particularly hard on the boys, Kanard said. When the older boy gets stressed, he has difficulty controlling his emotions, and has had autistic meltdowns in school. The younger son has a seizure disorder, and the stress is triggering seizures, which means trips to the hospital and more medication.

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

The shutdown also means she can’t take the boys out for lunches or dinner or even an ice cream. Multiply that, Kanard said, by 800,000 and you see the impact the shutdown is having on businesses.

Also impacted in Colorado by the partial shutdown is scientific research. The shutdown affects the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (one of its two locations is in Boulder) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which has laboratories in Boulder, as well as the Interior Department's U.S. Geological Survey, which 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.

Among the scientific work being maintained, however, is NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center, which operates a deep space observation lab that monitors solar flares that could disrupt communications and the nation's electrical grid.

Some agencies aren't significantly affected by the shutdown because their funding has already been approved -- like the military, the Department of Energy (and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden) and the Department of Labor. And the mail is still going through because the U.S. Postal Service is a self-funded agency.

The shutdown, which began at midnight on Dec. 22, resulted from an impasse between President Donald Trump and Democrats in Congress over funding for a border wall advocated by Trump.

Trump said he would refuse to sign appropriations bills initially passed by the then-Republican-controlled Congress that would keep the government open. Trump now is demanding $5.7 billion in funding for a barrier or wall at the country's southern border with Mexico in exchange for reopening the government.

Negotiations with House and Senate Democratic leaders broke down on Wednesday; according to CNN, the president stormed out of a meeting when told he would not get money for the wall. The two sides have not met since.

However, on Friday, both the U.S. House and Senate passed funding bills that will provide back pay to federal workers once the shutdown ends; according to CNBC, Trump is expected to sign.

Kanard, the EPA employee, said she isn’t opposed to border security, but she wants to get back to work and back to protecting people from pesticides.

The president claims he wants the border wall for the American people, she said, “but he's harming 800,000 Americans directly, including contractors,” as well as businesses that are being impacted indirectly.

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

The shutdown, which entered its 21st day Friday, will be the longest in history by this weekend and is forcing many American families to make tough decisions. It's especially hard for workers who don't have enough savings to cover their mortgages and other bills.

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

Government contractors, who have been indefinitely placed on unpaid leave, won't get compensated for lost hours.

Most government workers received their last paycheck two weeks ago, and Friday will be the first payday with no money.

On Thursday, federal workers called for an end to the shutdown in a downtown Denver rally. The protest Thursday at the U.S. Customs House in Denver drew about 150 federal employees, who delivered a letter to Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, whose office is at the customs house.

The letter, according to a worker who spoke to 9News, thanked Gardner for being the first U.S. 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," Tim Snyder of the American Federation of Government Employees said Friday. Snyder is pleased that the House and Senate have now passed legislation to provide back pay, "but we don't know how long [the shutdown] will be, and they can't get that back pay until the shutdown ends."

Snyder said the No. 1 message to Gardner Thursday was to thank him for his support. But they also want Gardner to put pressure on 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 is against border security, Snyder added, noting that his organization represents employees with various divisions of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, including TSA, the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

What doesn't make sense, Snyder said, is that Border Patrol agents are working without being paid.

"How does that promote any security?" he asked.

It's the same for TSA agents, whom Snyder said are not well paid. Some, he said, are getting close to the point where they're going to leave federal service for other jobs; some at the rally Thursday have started driving for Uber and Lyft since they don't know when their next paycheck will come.

Food banks across the nation, including Colorado's Food Bank of the Rockies, are reaching out to employees affected by the shutdown, 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," he said.

Snyder also pointed out that 30 to 40 percent of those affected by the shutdown are military veterans.

We take pride in supporting America's veterans," he said. "How can you make veterans go without a paycheck?"

In Colorado, Perlmutter announced Thursday his office will provide meals and other resources to federal employees affected by the shutdown.

Perlmutter's district includes a wealth of federal agencies, including 28 at the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, with more than 6,000 federal employees affected by the shutdown, out of 15,000 who are impacted statewide.

His Lakewood office, at 12600 West Alameda Avenue, Suite B-400, will be open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. to assist federal employees and other impacted constituents, he said. 

“As we’ve seen several times over the last few years, even a partial government shutdown can have a devastating impact on our state and on Colorado families," Perlmutter said. "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. 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. My office is open and here to help those impacted by this shutdown.”

Fellow Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette also announced Thursday on Twitter she would not accept her congressional salary federal employees get their paychecks.

Some federal workers are now applying for unemployment benefits, although that process usually takes several weeks. And those workers could impact unemployment numbers, according to Ben Herzon of US Economics.

Herzon said Thursday that if the shutdown continues through Saturday, it could drive the U.S. unemployment rate up by about 0.2 percentage points.

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

The unemployment rate will continue to increase as long as the shutdown continues, Herzon predicted. 

Democratic members of Colorado's congressional delegation are expected to hold a news conference at DIA on Monday. That event will include off-duty TSA agents.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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