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Long Island federal workers await back pay, recall notices

Federal workers on Long Island are eager to return to their jobs, but fearful another shutdown could occur in three weeks.

Rina Brooke and her daughter, Sophia Kieseheuer, of

Rina Brooke and her daughter, Sophia Kieseheuer, of North Babylon, bring their donations to the Angels of Long Island center in Patchogue. Photo Credit: Howard Simmons

Federal workers on Long Island on Saturday awaited recall notices and details about when they will be paid, one day after the nation's longest government shutdown ended.

Some said they also expected to have to tackle all the work that went undone in the last 35 days.

Ben Struck, a Federal Aviation Administration inspector furloughed from Republic Airport in Farmingdale, cited inspections and probes of aircraft mishaps, from flat tires to whether pilots deliberately flew higher than instructed. 

Morale also could be tricky, when people who were furloughed face colleagues who have been working without pay, said Struck, who was speaking for his union, the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists.

“Is one group going to feel jealous or envious, and say, ‘You got to stay on the beach, versus me, I had to come to work?' — and incur commuting and other expenses to boot? asked Struck, of Brooklyn.

Other federal employees said it could take weeks to restore their finances after missing two paychecks during the shutdown.

“It’s not instantaneous — it’s not like turning on your furnace and you get heat right away," said Internal Revenue Service manager Monique DiChristo, 58, of Center Moriches. "It’s going to take some time for employees to get money, to catch up.”

But at least briefly, much like in a natural disaster, the shutdown reknit some community ties.

Kate Skelly-Kurka of Fair Harbor said she had hoped to raise $1,000 for Fire Island’s Coast Guard Station.

“It’s amazing,” she said, after small and large donors gave $35,000 via GoFundMe. “And I think the Coast Guard really didn’t think about how we think about them as a part of us. … They protect us. We wanted to let them know we have their back.”

Mt. Sinai Bagel Cafe owner Marcus Argyros, aided by customers, already has donated more than 100 bags of a dozen bagels and cream cheese to any federal employee who stopped by.  “We’re going to try to keep it going,” he said, as there may be a lag before workers' back pay arrives.

Paul Saccoccio, who co-owns Gino’s Pizzeria in Ronkonkoma with his bother Marco, plans another 30-pie delivery on Monday for Transportation Security Administration workers at nearby Long Island MacArthur Airport.

“The least you can do is take care of your own,” he said.

DiChristo, joined by real estate agent Rina Brooke, 53, of North Babylon held a food drive Saturday at King Kullen in Patchogue. “It’s been unbelievable how giving people are,” Brooke said.

By midafternoon, 13 shopping carts filled with food and $300 worth of King Kullen gift cards had been donated for Angels of Long Island. Nearby IRS and Coast Guard locations make the Patchogue nonprofit one of the first places those workers turn, DiChristo and Brooke explained. 

On Friday, President Donald Trump agreed to reopen the federal government until Feb. 15. If Democrats and Republicans can't reach agreement for funding construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico, Trump said another shutdown could occur.

The outcome of those congressional negotiations is unknowable, and Struck and some co-workers fear another shutdown lies ahead.

“There’s a big sense of almost inevitableness that this will happen again in three weeks,” said Struck.

“I think people are going to prepare themselves mentally and psychologically and possibly financially to expect that in three weeks, and maybe do some long-term planning with vacations and work things,” he said.

Struck and a colleague are scheduled to be interviewed on "Suffolk Matters" on WALK 97.5 radio at 8 a.m. Sunday.

With Patricia Kitchen

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