By Steve Hendrix
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — The paycheck federal workers have been dreading hit bank accounts across the Washington region Friday, representing salaries cut in half for most idled employees. The next payday will be all zeros, and with furloughs dragging on, civil servants are settling into a financial crouch, slashing expenses, canceling vacations, tapping retirement savings and taking second jobs.
"We have no income coming into the house right now, but the bills haven't stopped," said John Ferris of Falls Church, Va. He is in a two-furlough marriage; both he and his wife, Lena, are locked out of jobs at the Environmental Protection Agency. With both of their paychecks dwindling, the family of six has put a scalpel to the household budget.
They've cut out restaurants and expensive groceries. Gone are the motel stays at their kids travel softball tournaments; instead, they drive all night. But the most painful cut has been a furlough of their own, laying off their autistic son's longtime reading specialist.
"He's been with our family for years, and I love him to death, but I thought, 'Wow, how am I going to pay him if we don't have paychecks coming,' " Lena Ferris said. She worries that one of the shutdown's lasting aftershocks could be her son's having to adjust to a new tutor. "He needs money, too," she said of the tutor. "I'm worried he's going to start working for another family."
Federal workers say they were hugely relieved by last week's House vote to guarantee the missed pay after the furlough's over. But that hasn't eased their anxiety over the bills stacking up in the meantime. Some parents are stretching to pay for day care they don't need just so they don't lose their slots while waiting to go back to work. All around the region, the furloughed are looking for money to satisfy their creditors or begging them for more time to pay their bills.