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Tiara Logan‘s last day of work as a security guard at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries in D.C. was Jan. 1. Before that, she had been on maternity leave since September after a high-risk pregnancy. She returned to work for just three days and then was told not to come back due to the federal government shutdown.
Logan, a 32-year-old single mother of three, is one of the approximately 380,000 federal workers who aren’t getting a paycheck because President Donald Trump has refused to fund the government without the $5 billion he wants to build a wall on the country’s southern border. But while federal employees who work directly for the government may be entitled to backpay, employees like Logan, who work on a contract basis, have no such security.
Today, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton reintroduced a bill aimed at providing Logan and other contract workers with backpay. The bill has 12 co-sponsors, all Democrats, and is the same as the version introduced during the last government shutdown.
In a statement, Holmes Norton says she is optimistic the bill will move forward this time, now that the Democrats control the House of Representatives. U.S. senators are also considering a companion bill.
The bill is intended to pay contract workers whatever wages they would have received had it not been for the shutdown, but specific details, such as the amount an hourly employee would receive, have yet to be ironed out.
“Low-wage federal contract workers can least afford to be penalized by President Trump’s shutdown,” Holmes Norton said in a press statement. “Unlike federal employees, who have always been made whole after a shutdown, many low-wage workers, who are the focus of our bill, earn little more than the minimum wage and receive few, if any benefits,”
Logan says she makes $17.72 an hour— just above the District’s $13.25/hour minimum wage—and has spent the past three weeks scrambling to provide for her kids, who are 16, 6, and 2 months old.
She says her newborn spent 23 days in the neonatal intensive care unit and still needs medication and pricey, special milk. Logan, a D.C. native who lives in Southeast, gets occasional help from her family, but for the most part is on her own.
So far, she says none of her kids have gone without a meal, but she has.
Logan is among the more than 2,000 District residents who’ve applied for unemployment benefits as a result of the federal government shutdown. (D.C.’s Department of Employment Services is tracking the number of applicants.)
“Pampers don’t grow on trees, milk don’t grow on tress,” she says. “I have to keep asking people if they can help me. It’s a whole lot.”
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