We are in day 26 of a partial federal government shutdown but Becky Schmidt Kern remains hard at work at the National Weather Service as a meteorologist. Schmidt Kern is the NWS Employees Organization Union Steward and says they fall under the category of excepted employees. They are required to go to work but will not be paid until the shutdown ends. That is putting many in a financial bind.
Schmidt Kern says, “People mid-to-late careers might financially be okay. It is the people that we are worried about are those just starting out and have student loan debt. We are a very specialized science and require a lot of education. People have student loans, people have doctor bills and so forth. It is really frustrating. Not knowing is really the thing. We can budget all we want. Let’s say we are not getting paid through April, fine. Just having that idea we have to do x, y and z to get through a certain date. Now, we don’t know.”
Schmidt Kern says all working for the National Weather Service are dedicated to their jobs and are used to long days. During the shutdown they continue to work and remain professional but if you get down to it it is stressful not knowing when your next paycheck will be.
Schmidt Kern says, “I’ve heard the excuse ‘you signed up for that’. If those of you out there that have careers or retired, did you sign up to miss a paycheck? Both sides have their heels dug. We don’t see an end in sight and that is what is really disconcerting to everyone who is forced to work and the opposite of that is furloughed.”
The shutdown also means that meteorologists are missing out on important training for the upcoming severe weather season because training officers are furloughed. Schmidt Kern says a number of those workers have already found temporary jobs. Most excepted employees don’t have that option because they are required to continue with their full time positions.