Ahead of shutdown, House and Senate Dems propose back pay for furloughed contractors

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A similar effort to legislate back pay for contractors failed during the 2018-2019 shutdown.

With a partial government shutdown seeming likely starting Oct. 1, Democrats in the House and Senate are looking to make sure furloughed contractors receive back pay just like federal employees.

Reps. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Donald Norcross, D-N.J., along with Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., have introduced the Fair Pay for Federal Contractors Act to pay federal contractors wages lost during a shutdown. The bill also proposes restoring paid leave time used by furloughed contractors during a shutdown.

"This is about fairness," Smith said in a statement. "Contractor workers and their families should not be penalized for a government shutdown that they did nothing to cause” 

Pressley noted that federal contractors may have lost up to 15% of annual income during the previous extended government shutdown. 

"Government shutdowns are destabilizing events with disastrous consequences, especially for the thousands of low-wage service workers and their families," Pressley said.

The back pay provision is capped at $1,442 per 40-hour work week.

Pressley and Smith proposed similar legislation during the 35-day shutdown of 2018-2019. After that shutdown, federal employees were guaranteed back pay for time on furlough, but efforts to extend the same benefit to contract workers failed.

The bill also calls on the Office of Federal Procurement Policy to produce a report on the number of contractors who are covered by the legislation, as well as details on how many contract employees submitted claims for lost wages.

Unemployment insurance compensation is not mentioned in the bill. Feds who receive unemployment payments during a shutdown are typically on the hook to repay those benefits upon receiving back pay when the government reopens.