Thirty-five furlough status employees at Mesa Verde National Park as of Tuesday morning had not received back pay from the 35-day partial government shutdown that ended Jan. 25.
Park services shut down Dec. 21. The park road remained open for a few days but was closed after a Dec. 25 snowstorm because there were not enough resources to plow the road.
An email from the National Park Service Workforce and Inclusion Directorate on Tuesday morning to park employees obtained by The Journal says the NPS and its payroll provider are aware that “a number of employees” have not yet received retroactive pay.
The email said payroll provider Interior Business Center would be processing payments Tuesday and Wednesday. If employees do not receive pay by Wednesday morning, they have been asked to reply to that email.
About a half hour before employees received that email, Mesa Verde spokeswoman Cristy Brown sent an email to all park employees saying she was aware that employees have not yet been paid. She said they “probably won’t get paid” until about Monday.
Brown did not respond Tuesday to an email and phone call from The Journal. The park’s deputy superintendent, Bill Nelligan, also did not respond to a phone call.
“I am sure you are frustrated and angry and maybe worried and scared,” Brown wrote in the Tuesday morning email. “There are employees here who are willing to help you out financially, to help ease a little bit of that stress.”
She wrote that the payroll system is “kicking payment back” for subject-to-furlough employees. She said employees at IBC have to manually input time for those employees to override the system.
“We have done what we can at the park level, this is a system error,” Brown wrote.
Brown on Friday notified employees that there was an issue with interim payment for the 35 subject-to-furlough employees. She wrote that employees could see deposits by Monday or Tuesday night. Brown’s letter did not say how many people have received payment, but she did say the park employs “418 park service units.”
“I know this is coming as an additional blow,” Brown wrote on Friday. “If you are in need of any sort of assistance, please let me know – you’re not in this alone.”
On Monday morning, Brown sent a “question and answer” handout from IBC dated Feb. 1. It answers questions like, “Why did I not receive an off-cycle payment yet?” and “Why did I not receive my regular paycheck in these off-cycle payments?”
The IBC stated employees did not receive regular paychecks in off-cycle payments because the priority was to get some relief pay to employees who had not received pay during the shutdown.
Another question suggests that off-cycle payments that some employees have already received were “several hundred dollars” off of what employees expected. The IBC said off-cycle payments were lower than expected so that employees would not owe a debt to the federal government.
The lack of pay for weeks on end has taken a toll on the subject-to-furlough employees, which includes maintenance workers.
One employee told The Journal that a supervisor said they would get paid between Jan. 30 and Feb. 1, or five to seven days after the government reopened. Then it was delayed until Monday.
“It really seems like we are just being screwed with,” an employee told The Journal. “They have no idea how many of us are struggling.”
The park reopened Monday, after maintenance crews cleared rockfalls and repaired guardrail damage incurred during the shutdown.
The partial federal government shutdown was triggered by a budget dispute between Congress and President Donald Trump on funding a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. A deal was struck Jan. 25 to fund and reopen the government until Feb. 15 to allow time for a budget resolution.