The estimated 800,000 federal employees who have gone without paychecks during the government shutdown should almost all get their back pay by week’s end, a top White House official said Sunday.
Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” that the government has multiple payroll providers, and which payroll provider covers their agency will dictate how long it takes employees to get paid.
“Some of them could be early this week,” Mulvaney said. “Some of them may be later this week, but we hope that by the end of this week all of the back pay will be made up and of course the next payroll will go out on time.”
Federal employees missed their second paycheck last week. About half of those employees were considered “essential” and worked without pay, but all will be paid in full for the shutdown’s duration.
The paychecks this week are crucial because workers might find paychecks cut off again next month. For now, most office workers will be back at their desks Monday.
“Alleluja!” said Carl Houtman, 58, a chemical engineer for the Forest Service in Madison, Wisconsin. “It’s great for everybody. In three weeks we may be playing this game of chicken again, but at least everyone is getting a paycheck.”
Houtman’s first day back will mean wading through hundreds of emails he was barred from reading during the shutdown. Timesheets, W-2 tax forms and other paperwork must be dealt with. Then he must reschedule projects left idle since a few days before Christmas.
“We’ve made due financially,” Houtman told USA TODAY. “But it’s just time to go back to work.”
President Donald Trump on Friday signed the deal to end the longest government shutdown on record – with a hitch. Federal agencies are reopening for three weeks while lawmakers try to negotiate a compromise over Trump’s demand for funding for a wall along the southern border.
Mulvaney acknowledged that Trump could shut down the government again. But he said the $5.7 billion Trump seeks for the wall remains a priority.
“Keep in mind he’s willing to do whatever it takes to secure the border,” Mulvaney said. “He does take this very seriously. This is a serious humanitarian and security crisis.”
For now, though, many federal employees were just glad to return to work. Most offices were reopening Monday. All Smithsonian museums and the National Zoo reopen Tuesday.
The National Park Service said it was preparing to resume regular operations but that opening dates might differ depending on staff size and “complexity of operations” at each park.
Some were already back. In Minnesota, the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area published a video on Facebook of the gate to the visitor center rolling up. “We are open!!!!” the post exclaimed.
But park ranger Sharon Stiteler had a suggestion for people greeting returning workers.
“Please don’t say to returning #furloughedfeds on Monday: ‘Welcome back from vacation!’ ” she tweeted. “This was not a vacation. When you return from a vacation you’re relaxed. We are returning stressed and frustrated.”