Local News

Furloughed workers volunteer during shutdown

Posted October 2, 2013

— For some furloughed workers, being off the job during the federal government shutdown doesn't mean they simply stop working.

About 30 U.S. Environment Protection Agency employees spent Wednesday morning volunteering at Herndon Park in Durham. They pruned trees and put down mulch, as well as picked up trash on a nearby roadway.

The EPA sent most of the 2,000 people who work at its complex of research labs and offices in Research Triangle Park home at noon Tuesday until Congress can settle its budget impasse. The RTP facility is the EPA's largest operation outside of Washington, D.C.

"I'd rather be able to go to work like everyone else. I'm just trying to take it one day at a time and be positive," Alison Davis said.

The local employees said it's tough not knowing when they will get their next paychecks, but volunteering helps them deal with the stress. They have already set up other projects as the shutdown continues, such as working at the Ronald McDonald House later this week.

"It's kind of in the blood of everyone you see out here – it's in my blood – community service, public service. It's kind of what we do," furloughed worker Scott Mathias said. "It's what you do every day in the office, and when you're not in the office, it's kind of hard to imagine what you should do other than help your community."

Mathias also worked for the EPA during the last government shutdown in the mid-1990s. He said with a laugh that the biggest difference between then and now is that he was a lot younger during the previous shutdown.

Furloughed EPA workers volunteer Anxiety grows as shutdown proceeds

"We are trying to live and work in our communities, and it's frustrating when you can't do that," he said.

The shutdown is frustrating others across the Triangle as well.

Two officials from federal agencies have canceled speeches scheduled at Duke University, spokesman Michael Schoenfeld said.

Although federal student aid and research grants continue to be paid, Schoenfeld said, that could change at Duke and other universities if the congressional budget impasse drags on.

Timing is also critical to area housing authorities. Dallas Parks, chief executive of the Durham Housing Authority, said that if the Department of Housing and Urban Development remains closed into November, the agency wouldn't have any money to pay Section 8 housing landlords. It's unclear if that could lead to families being evicted from subsidized housing.

The North Carolina National Guard has already been hit by the shutdown, furloughing about 50 percent of its workforce. About 800 soldiers and airmen are still working across the state.

41 Comments

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  • nicolle Oct 7, 3:04 p.m.

    larterl - "wow, I can't believe all the negative comments. I thought this was a very nice story about people volunteering their time - giving to others - when they don't have to. How many people reading this story would do the same if told they had to stay home from work? I say kudos to them all for making a difference. Well done!"

    If you think the negative comments on here are bad, don't go on the national boards! At least 90% are NOT in support of government workers and a lot are hateful and mean. After being on those boards, I was pleasantly surprised to see a number of good comments here (sad but true).

    For people that say "they're going to get paid" even if they are, that's not going to pay their rent NOW. They already lost a bit of pay during the sequester, so some or all of their savings may be depleted. Somehow, I don't think the power, insurance, etc. companies are going are going to let them delay paying their bills (like the government is doing to them).

  • IPayYouPay Oct 4, 3:02 p.m.

    Billhaynes: Mr. Obama has nothing singular to do with this. It is truly a Republican-controlled congress. Just a-c-c-e-p-t that. Be honest with yourselves. It's a Republican-controlled congress. 'nuf sed -

  • glarg Oct 4, 12:15 p.m.

    So how does information on this get to the WRAL for them to send a reporter out? Hmmmmm. I do yard work every weekend and nary a camera.

    A little political theater from the government drones?

  • billhaynes Oct 3, 1:39 p.m.

    well ya cab blame obmama....ty mr presadent

  • mojaintsmall Oct 3, 10:49 a.m.

    “TRUE CHRISTIANS!!!” Trusting

    I must have missed that part of the article. Reading is fundamental. mojaintsmall

  • Backpacker Oct 3, 8:37 a.m.

    “Thoughts from a true partisan. No wonder the US is in the shape it is.” Radioactive Ted

    My exact sentiments.

  • Backpacker Oct 3, 8:02 a.m.

    “TRUE CHRISTIANS!!!” Trusting

    Where in the story does it say they’re Christians? Who says there not true Muslims, Hindus, Hebrews, or even true atheists. There are in excess of 4,000 various religions throughout the world, surely there are others besides “True Christians” that have the same or if not more capacity for doing good.

  • Radioactive Ted Oct 2, 6:52 p.m.

    "They're not thoughts, they're fact; read the article. I don't see any partisanship in MEP's comments; only Your's..." twoods7

    Sorry, but you are wrong. The 'fact' is the THIS group of 25 was doing volunteer work. What M. mep said was (emphasis mine) "ONLY 25 out of 2000 volunteered." Who knows what the other 1975 did?

    I love how people use the word 'fact' to mean whatever they want.

  • Gork Oct 2, 6:04 p.m.

    Very admirable - and they were willing to do it without taking anything away from other people.

  • mojaintsmall Oct 2, 5:19 p.m.

    "How many people reading this story would do the same if told they had to stay home from work?"

    as posted previously I would have gone golfing..probably fishing on the 2nd day...mojaintsmall

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