Washington D.C. – The 35-day government shutdown caused personal and professional hardship for the employees of the Food and Drug Administration, National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon told Congress today.
NTEU represents thousands of frontline FDA employees around the country, including many who were furloughed or required to work without pay for more than a month.
In written testimony submitted to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture and the FDA, Reardon described the “absolutely devastating” impact of the shutdown on the scientists, inspectors and researchers at the FDA.
“FDA faces a backlog of work, a morale crisis unnecessarily created by the shutdown, and the possibility that skilled professionals who had been willing to work in public service for less compensation than offered by the private sector could now decide to leave the agency,” Reardon wrote.
FDA employees, like all government workers affected by the partial shutdown, struggled to pay their bills in January. At one point, 95 percent of the employees at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Nutrition and 70 percent of the employees at the Office of Regulatory Affairs were furloughed.
“In Philadelphia, an FDA employee had to take out a loan because he had two kids in college and their tuition was due during the shutdown,” Reardon wrote.
FDA employees were also troubled by the critical tasks that they knew were delayed by the shutdown because their work is focused on protecting the health and safety of the American consumer.
“It is essential that the Appropriations Committee, Congress and the President never allow such a shutdown to happen again,” he wrote.
Reardon also commended FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb for his responsiveness to employee concerns during the shutdown, especially regarding the need of employees to cover their work-related travel expenses without any certainty about when they would be reimbursed.
“I brought this matter directly to the FDA Commissioner’s attention and I am pleased that, with Dr. Gottlieb’s direct involvement, an accommodation was eventually implemented during the middle of the shutdown that allowed for travel billing directly to the agency rather than an employee’s credit card,” Reardon wrote.
NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.