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FAA Worker From Brookline Discusses Impact of Furlough During Government Shutdown



The government shutdown has meant the thousands of government workers, including some in New Hampshire, are not getting paychecks. Kacie Petrin Ellis of Brookline has worked for the Federal Aviation Administration for 11 years. She’s currently furloughed because of the government shutdown.

All Things Considered Host Peter Biello spoke with her about the shutdown's impact.

So this government shutdown came at a really bad time for you. Your husband was laid off from his private sector job about six months ago. He got a new job around Thanksgiving and just as you were trying to rebuild your financial lives this happened. So tell us what's the financial picture for you looking like right now?

So the financial picture has been improving. You know now that he has income coming in that's been helping us to recover financially. We have three children who are school aged and one is in college. You know, between child care, my middle child has autism, so he requires medical treatments. And as most people know, health care premiums have been steadily increasing throughout the years. So that definitely is a challenge. And you know right now not being sure when my next paycheck will come in, we have to really sit down and reconsider priorities. And so it is a little scary to think that we might have to cut back on necessary services that my son with autism needs to receive.

You work at the FAA and you were at one point in your career in an air traffic controller. Now you work on the administrative and budget side of things. What's not happening at the FAA because you're not there doing your job? 

So part of my job did involves some payroll. I was processing a lot of the overtime. The air traffic controllers are unfortunately working a lot of extra overtime hours. And you know unfortunately they don't know when they'll be paid. You know, travel. There are people who are traveling right now and unfortunately they cannot be reimbursed from the government. So they're actually you know paying out of their own pocket.

Did you happen to watch last night's address from the president and then top Democrats in Congress?
I sure did. Yes.

And what did you think?

It was disappointing but not surprising. I really did not get that much out of the address. And to be quite honest I think it was very disappointing that our president really didn't acknowledge the federal employees that unfortunately are working without pay and the people who are furloughed. So yes, very disappointing. 

Have you spoken at all with your children about what's happening with the government shutdown. I imagine you'll have to speak to them differently because your children vary in age? 

They do. And so they definitely my youngest two they understand there's a government shutdown. 

They understand mommy is home from work and you know we can't necessarily afford to buy all the little extras that they were used to getting. Obviously being 7 and 9 they don't understand, you know, the grand scheme. But my stepson who is 21, he definitely understands and you know it's been a good life lesson for him to understand, you know how these things affect you know the average American. 

So when you go back to work is there just going to be an enormous pile of things for you to do?

Yes.  The anxiety, knowing that there will be hundreds of hours of overtime needing to be processed, trying to catch up with the payroll trying to assist travelers with getting their reimbursements. I will be inundated. My colleague will be inundated. I have colleagues who were deemed non-essential but have been called back to work to kind of fill in for some of the issues that you know needed to be taken care of and that could not have waited until we are returned to duty.

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.
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