'They don't care about us': Workers who would go without pay in government shutdown speak out
A Library of Congress cafeteria worker is worried about how she'll pay bills.
Caught in the middle of the political infighting and sharp divisions on Capitol Hill: as many as 4 million workers who could lose pay in a government shutdown.
The House and Senate have until the end of the day on Saturday, Sept. 30 to pass a spending deal to avert a government shutdown. If they can't strike a deal, essential workers will remain on the job without pay, and others will be furloughed.
While many government workers could receive back pay, federal contractors impacted by the shutdown such as Willie Jo Price probably will not. She's been working in the cafeteria at the Library of Congress for 42 years and now she's bracing for yet another shutdown.
Price, who spoke with ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott, grew emotional when asked if she will be able to pay her bills by the end of the month if Congress fails to act.
"Oh yeah. Yes, I worry about that. A whole lot," she said, fighting back tears.
Price said she is living paycheck to paycheck, and, having gone through previous shutdowns, she is aware of the potential for a rough road ahead.
During the 2018 government shutdown, which lasted 35 days, she took out a personal loan to pay her bills on time. Price said it took months to recover financially.
"[There are] a lot out here just like me: living paycheck to paycheck and can't afford to do anything, you know, and then the government shutdown, and like I say, the government will go back and they're gonna get paid. We're not gonna get anything," Price said. "We got to try to scrape by and you got to listen to the phone calls come because you haven't paid your bill."
Price said she is frustrated with lawmakers.
"They don't care about us. When I say 'us' it's myself as a food service worker, a person that cleans, everybody that's a contractor for the government. We all suffer from whatever the decisions that everybody else makes," she said.
Many military and Coast Guard families will also be left scrambling if a government shutdown happens. Millions of military troops and personnel would be left without paychecks.
Coast Guard spouse Andie Coakley said a government shutdown could mean her husband, Joe Coakley, might not get paid. The Jacksonville, Florida, mother of four said military families are "held hostage" during a shutdown.
"This should never even become an issue that our military families have to worry about a paycheck. Their loved ones may be overseas. How are they supposed to pay the rent and pay the bills and not even know when the next paycheck is coming?" Coakley said.
Joe is slated to retire next summer after 23 years of service and the family was hit hard during the previous government shutdown because the Coast Guard was not covered by the law Congress passed that ensured military members received pay during the shutdown. The Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security and not the Department of Defense.
"I don't think Congress sees the impact that this has on our military families," said Coakley, who served six years in the Coast Guard. "… I really don't think they understand. I just don't. Otherwise this would have been resolved with measures prior to getting to a shutdown and ending the pay."
Coakley said she thinks the threat of shutdowns affects military recruitment and readiness.
"Why would someone choose to serve their country knowing that the lawmakers don't care enough to make sure that they're going to get paid? If this is going to be what they deal with every year, stressing over whether they're going to have paychecks," she said.
To avert a shutdown, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy needs to work with Republican hard-liners to pass 12 different spending bills to fund agencies across the government or come to an agreement on a temporary extension -- a continuing resolution -- to allow the government to keep operating.
Rachel Scott asked McCarthy if he can assure workers that the government will not shut down.
"Look, I'm working everything we can to make sure this doesn't happen," he said.
Still Price wants to remind lawmakers like McCarthy that the shutdown has a ripple effect that can harm many Americans.
"They need to think about us ... all of the workers that's out here in this world, that [are] just like me," she said.