Jan 24, 2019

By Tyler Freiberger, Esq.

One month and two days and still 800,000 federal employees are currently working without pay as a result of the “partial” government shutdown. As many employees struggle to afford basic necessities it’s only slight comfort that Congress has already passed the law authorizing back pay when the shutdown ends. While the hardship of these government employees deserves the mass media’s coverage, there are also over four million federal contractors supporting the federal government, and the million furloughed contractors have notably received far less attention for not only being put on leave but have little hope they will ever get paid for the past month.

Even those contractors specifically designated as needing government assistance are not immune to the shutdown. Blind and severally disabled Americans working through the Javits-Wagner O’Day (JWOD) Act are included in this massive number of out of work contractors. JWOD established the AbilityOne Program that gives over 45,000 people who are blind or have significant disabilities employment on federal contracts, and the program is the largest source of employment for these individuals. Rather than simply writing more checks to support a disadvantaged and marginalized population, the AbilityOne Program gives a path to meaningful employment. Not only do these individuals gain a dignified answer to the typical “so what do you do?” they also provide much-needed labor supporting government facilities and operations.

While the sudden lack of pay can be devastating to anyone, disabled employees under the AbilityOne program are also currently without the much-needed support system tied to this specialized program. Harrison Misewicz, Director of Contracting for Chimes DC, a non-profit resource provider for individuals with disabilities, reports that of the hundred Chimes DC employees currently furloughed, none are receiving benefits while the shutdown looms. In addition, many of these disabled workers are missing the day-to-day coaching and other direct support they have come to rely on while they wait at home for the chance to go back to work.

There is a push to help low-wage federal contractor employees such as those working under the AbilityOne program. While the damage and disruption these individuals are facing may never be cured, one hopes this bill will gain more attention and offer some relief to the already disadvantaged population.


About the Author:

Tyler Freiberger Headshot | Centre Law & Consulting in Tysons, VA Tyler Freiberger
Associate Attorney

Tyler Freiberger is an associate attorney at Centre Law & Consulting primarily focusing on employment law and litigation. He has successfully litigated employment issues before the EEOC, MSPB, local counties human rights commissions, the United States D.C. District Court, Maryland District Court, and the Eastern District of Virginia.



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  • Evans says:

    We are a Small Veteran Owned business providing health services to multiple federal prisons. We are not being paid during the shutdown, and for some odd reason the Federal Prison System is not paying invoices for services that occurred prior to the shutdown. This violates the appropriation law because they were funded up to December 22nd. Their actions may put us out of business. We have been in business for over a decade and never been late in paying our providers until now.

  • Dan Raczykowski says:

    Thank you for bringing this issue out in the public I applaud you for making people aware of this. As a DOD contractor that try’s to support this program I am very disappointed in our government for not setting something in place for the Ability One program to continue to be funded through these political disagreements. I have personally met many of these people and the highlight of there day is going to work. They never complain, there always happy and just want to feel they are doing something good. It breaks my heart that they are stuck in the middle and no one is defending them from our political mishaps. Please let me know if I can in anyway help out with efforts to see that this doesn’t ever happen again to these wonderful individuals.