The federal government shutdown became the longest in history over the weekend, and Friday’s missed paycheck for furloughed workers generated another 800,000 sad stories.
There are unpaid prison guards feeding New Year’s Day steak dinners to convicted felons. More than 1,000 federal workers set up GoFundMe pages to help cover bills, while others put their personal belongings on Craigslist to make ends meet. Even federal employees who want to be done with it all and retire can’t because there’s no one to process the paperwork.
But amid all the heartache there was a bright spot for one family of a federal worker: As hundreds of thousands of federal workers were lamenting their missed checks, Carrie Walls was picking one up.
Walls won the Virginia Lottery’s “Ford Expedition Plus $100K,” a scratch-off contest. In a picture posted by the state’s lottery commission, she’s seen smiling inside the driver’s seat of the new white SUV, holding a Virginia Lottery check almost as wide as the front door.
“I cried,” Walls, who is from Ashburn, Virginia, said of the moment she knew she was a winner. “I couldn’t believe it.”
Walls, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, had the winning ticket out of 554,000 entries. She bought the scratch-off on Dec. 4, two weeks before the federal government shutdown began.
A month and a half later, her family is perhaps one of the only ones not feeling the squeeze.
As The Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis wrote Friday, unions representing federal workers who haven’t been paid filed suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, demanding full compensation for time and overtime they have worked.
“This lawsuit is not complicated: We do not believe it is lawful to compel a person to work without paying them,” Randy Erwin, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, said in a statement. “With this lawsuit we’re saying, ‘No, you can’t pay workers with I.O.U.s. That will not work for us.”
On Friday, Congress passed legislation guaranteeing back pay for furloughed workers. President Donald Trump spent Saturday battling criticism that he doesn’t have a plan to end the shutdown.
“I do have a plan on the Shutdown,” he tweeted. “But to understand that plan you would have to understand the fact that I won the election, and I promised safety and security for the American people. Part of that promise was a Wall at the Southern Border. Elections have consequences!”
For now, the Walls family doesn’t have to worry about that. They’re planning a trip to Disney World.