Friday was payday for the CDC’s employees. Or, rather, half a payday. Employees of the Atlanta-based public health agency received roughly half their pay...

Friday was payday for the CDC’s employees. Or, rather, half a payday.

Employees of the Atlanta-based public health agency received roughly half their pay last week due to the federal shutdown. Workers were paid for the one week prior to the shutdown, but the second week of the pay period was affected by the shutdown.

Dr. Tom Frieden

Dr. Tom Frieden

About 9,000 of the 13,000 CDC employees have been furloughed and are not being paid. (The U.S. House has voted to give such federal employees back pay once the shutdown ends, but the details remain to be ironed out.) Even those CDC employees who have been working since the shutdown started are not getting paid; they are receiving IOUs.

The financial impact hit Friday, with the reduced paychecks. CDC Director Tom Frieden sent an emotional message to employees. He referred to the partial pay but also emphasized the importance of the CDC employees’ work and the frustration that they share. Here is the text of the Frieden email:

As I walk through empty offices, cubicles, and labs at CDC, tears come to my eyes. Each empty space represents a person not allowed to fulfill the mission to which he or she is passionately committed, a family or individual struggling to get by without a full paycheck, and many people who may suffer because we are not able to do our public health work.

I so appreciate the sacrifices you are making. As I have said many times, CDC’s greatest asset is you – your expertise, knowledge, and commitment. For the past four years, I’ve been confident of our ability to find, stop, and prevent problems because CDC is, quite simply, the best public health institution in the world – because of you. With 9,000 people furloughed, I am anxious about what might fall through the cracks, and we are managing as well as we can to protect people within the limitations of the law.

The few people who remain on campus are working under extremely challenging circumstances, trying to forestall public health disasters and stop ongoing public health threats. If it were allowed, I know all employees would be back at work.

I share your frustration. Today is particularly upsetting; partial paychecks remind us of the impact of the shut-down on our families and communities.

Along with senior CDC leadership, I am doing everything I can to address your concerns and to update you on the latest guidance. As new information becomes available, we will post it on the employee section of the CDC internet website.

Thank you for your dedication and service. I can’t wait to welcome employees back to the important work that awaits us. CDC embodies the principle of public service, and I know we all want to get back to doing what we were called to do.

Tom Frieden

In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services, which contains the CDC, has posted an open letter to anyone who may be owed money by department employees. The letter said the furloughs and the resulting loss of income “may make it difficult for . . . employees to meet their financial obligations.”

“We would appreciate your organization’s cooperation in making feasible arrangements with employees in meeting their financial obligations to reduce the impact of this involuntary act,’’ said the Oct. 11 letter from Heidi Sheaffer, associate deputy assistant secretary in HHS’ Office of Human Resources. “We ask that you remain patient and show compassion towards our employees during this time when they may be negatively impacted by the government-wide shutdown.”

Here is a link to Sheaffer’s letter.

CDC employees are not the only federal employees being furloughed, and are not the only Georgians feeling the financial pain of the shutdown. But their importance to the state’s overall economy is substantial. The CDC employs about 8,500 people in Georgia and has an annual payroll of nearly $1 billion in the state.

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Andy Miller

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News

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