Federal workers resort to sleeping in cars, unable to afford gas money

Employees at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin aren't going home every day at the end of their shifts.

"Now, since I don't have money it's been really tough," said Justin Bell, a Federal Corrections Officer at the prison.

He and other staff slept overnight at the prison on a cot. The partial government shutdown, now entering its second month, has left some employees strapped for cash, so they have set up temporary beds with sleeping bags inside the prison training center.

"That way, instead of driving home and spending another $20 on gas, we can just sleep in the training center," said Bell. 

The AFGE Local 3584 President Edward Canales says other workers are sleeping in vehicles or campers in the prison parking lot. He says dozens more are also asking to switch to 4 day shifts in order to save on gas.

The employees received a show of compassion Tuesday with food donations from Trader Joe's stores and a local charity called Home at Sunset. 

The bitter irony, though, for prison staff is watching prisoners still getting meals, while federal employees get no paycheck to buy groceries.

Bell is an Iraq war veteran living with relatives and supporting two children.

"It's scary. it's really scary," Bell said.

He and other federal workers are caught in the middle of the shutdown tug-of-war and they are hoping politicians find compassion and a compromise.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has agreed to call a vote Thursday on two competing bills. 

"To reject this proposal, Democrats would have to prioritize political combat with the President ahead of Federal Workers," said McConnell. 

McConnell says the Republican bill would give President Trump the $5.7 billion he wants for a down payment on his long-promised border wall.

It also offers to temporarily reinstate protections for DACA youth, giving those so-called Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children a 3-year extension. The Republican bill would also allow a temporary halt on deportation of residents with temporary protected status.

Democrats say the Republican bill is no compromise. 

"The President didn't ask what Democrats needed in a bill to achieve our support. He simply laid his proposal down on the table and proclaimed it a compromise," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). 

Democrats want the Senate to approve a set of bills that already passed the House, which reopen the government immediately and provide funding through February 8th, allowing politicians to debate border security. Democrats say the $5.7 billion for a wall is a waste of money and say other methods are more effective such as technology to monitor the border and increasing the staff. They also want permanent, not temporary, solutions for DACA youth. 

Federal workers whose lives are on the line want politicians to stop the rhetoric and recognize reality. 

"I probably got about 80 bucks left on my credit card for gas, so I could probably go a few more weeks tops. But it's going to be tight," said Bell.