As federal shutdown drags on, U.S. workers in Philly region feel the pinch

Philadelphia-based federal workers and agencies are trying to handle the uncertainty — and financial hardship — amid the partial government shutdown.

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, file)

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, file)

Taji Chanel, who hasn’t worked in a week, said his last paycheck should come through on Saturday.

After that, the IRS employee and father of three will be on his own. He expects the bills to pile up fast.

“You’re just playing catch-up for the rest of the year,” the 32-year-old said. “You’re going to be in debt for a while.”

Chanel, a resident of West Oak Lane, is among the hundreds of thousands of federal employees stranded without work as President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats feud over funding for a southern border wall.

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Though most of the federal government remains open, an estimated 380,000 workers have been furloughed. Another 420,000 were deemed essential and are working without pay, unable to take any sick days or vacation. The impasse could hamstring scientific research, close national parks, and disrupt tax collection just as new rules take effect.

In Philadelphia, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center will be open through Sunday,  thanks to money from the tourism group Visit Philadelphia. Other local agencies are also relying on emergency funds to weather the shutdown.

Employees, landlords, and low-income residents relying on funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will still have their paychecks and housing vouchers. HUD, which allocates funds on a monthly basis, said federal dollars will flow through January, even though the agency has been mostly shuttered.

“Landlords and the housing choice voucher program, they will get their payments. Vendors and employees will be paid as normal,” said Kirk Dorn, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Housing Authority. “So there’s no concern with housing authority operations.”

PHA has contingency funding to float operations in Philadelphia for at least two months if the shutdown continues through January.

Though it pales in comparison to D.C., Philadelphia’s federal workforce is relatively large. Only five metro areas — Washington, D.C., New York City, Virginia Beach, Baltimore, and San Diego — have more than the 33,000 full-time federal workers living the Delaware Valley.

Those sent home now await the outcome of a contentious budget battle. Trump is sticking with his demand for money to build a wall along the Mexican border, and Democrats, who take control of the House on Jan. 3, are refusing to give him what he wants.

With another long holiday weekend coming and nearly all lawmakers away from the Capitol, there is little expectation of a quick fix.

“We are far apart,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told CBS on Friday. Democrats, she said, have “left the table altogether.”

Incoming acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Democrats are no longer negotiating with the administration over an earlier offer to accept less than the $5 billion Trump wants for the wall.

Meanwhile, Democrats said the White House offered $2.5 billion for border security, but that Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told Vice President Mike Pence it wasn’t acceptable.

Taji Chanel has little hope of a quick resolution. He’s already mulling whether to quit his government job and go back to work for a commercial bank.

“I don’t know how I’m going to feed my family after this next paycheck,” he said.

His three children, meanwhile, find it hard to comprehend why their dad is out of work.

“They just can’t believe everything is shut down because of a wall,” Chanel said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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