Colorado's furloughed workers face tough choices if their paycheck doesn't come soon

Lakewood nonprofit offering help to furloughed workers
Posted at 7:31 PM, Jan 02, 2019

DENVER -- Nearly 300 federal employees who call Colorado home have now filed for unemployment as the partial government shutdown stretches on.

For many, bills are looming, and they’re uncertain when they will have the money to pay.

Every day, all day, Andrea Popelka is anxiously watching the news about the shutdown.

“I get up really early to watch,” she said. "They're sitting there back and forth, and I feel like we're pawns in the game."

The stakes are high for furloughed workers like her. She is worried about whether she can pay her bills or buy groceries.

"All those things are already pre-budgeted, so when something like this happens, and you're not going to get your next check, ‘OK what do I do?’" she asked. "I'll have to make a tough choices between paying my utilities or going and buying groceries for the next two weeks."

For almost three decades, she has worked as an IT specialist at the Denver Federal Center, where thousands of government employees are now facing bills that need to be paid and the possibility they won’t get the next paycheck.

"Everybody has a crisis in their life sometime," said Pam Brier with The Action Center in Lakewood, who said that as the shutdown drags on, the nonprofit is ready to help furloughed employees with everything from food to rental and utility assistance. "Sometimes people are hesitant to ask for help. We want to let everyone know it's OK. Everyone needs help sometimes, and they'll have the opportunity to do something nice for the next person..."

Popelka is used to being the person helping others, but after a surgery on her foot depleted her savings, she and her family are living pay check to paycheck.

When she saw the Trump administration suggested furloughed employees trade painting or carpentry work for rent: "I was like, are you kidding me, really?" she said in frustration. "So many people are sitting here nervous, watching, just like I am, waiting to see what happens. I don't think they realize how personally they are affecting each and every one of us."

More on The Action Center: All of the organization’s services require an appointment, which can be made by calling 720-215-4850 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday – with the exception of Monday, December 31 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Tuesday, January 1st when the organization is closed for the holiday. Same day appointments may be available.

For those in need of rental assistance, please call 720-407-6712 and those in need of utility assistance, please call 720-407-6674. Please listen to the message and follow the instructions closely. If qualifications are met, a navigator from The Action Center will call back and make follow-up arrangements.

To learn more about or to become involved with the organization, please visit