Back Pay Coming Sooner Than Expected For Some Furloughed Workers

Oct 17, 2013

Credit James Gathany / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Furloughed federal employees in metro Atlanta returned to work Thursday with the end of the partial government shutdown, and some say their back pay is coming sooner than expected.

Tom McGill, who works as a manager at the Environmental Protection Agency in Atlanta, describes the mood when he returned to work as celebratory. He says co-workers traded hugs and shared their furlough stories between catching up with emails and meetings.

“I went into work and realized, oh, I should have brought doughnuts, so I ran down to Dunkin’ Doughnuts and brought them back,” McGill says.

McGill says spirits are up at the EPA and back pay is coming in less than two weeks.

The spending plan that avoided default and reopened the government Wednesday night includes a provision for furloughed employees to receive back pay “as soon as practicable.” But a memo circulated at the EPA says the agency’s furloughed employees will receive their back pay on the next pay day, Oct. 29.

Cherie Gray is a public health analyst at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She says she’ll receive her back pay for the pay period starting Oct. 6 next Friday, though she says pay for the first week of the month is still on hold.

“It was really shocking to me that we would get that pay so quickly,” Gray says.

Gray says she moved about $1,500 from her savings account to her checking account when the government was initially shuttered Oct. 1. She says she also took out about $2,000 from a money market account, and sent a little bit less money to her mother and aunt this month – something she says she does every month – just to make sure she could cover her costs while she was out of work.

“I couldn’t give them all of what I normally give them because, you know, I felt like I needed to hold onto my cash,” Gray says.

Now that Gray’s back at work, she says she’ll put the back-pay money into her savings.