Government contractors are still scraping money together to feed their kids after shutdown

Will government contractors get back pay?

Most of the 800,000 federal workers, who were not paid during the partial government shutdown, are starting to receive back pay but there are potentially millions of government contractors who may never see a dime. 

Government contractors are largely the people who cook in kitchens, clean bathrooms or work the night shift as security guards in many Smithsonian Museums and other federal buildings across the country, reports CBS News' Ed O'Keefe. 

 For single mom Loniece Hamilton, the shutdown isn't over. 

"It's really hard," Hamilton said. "I'm definitely scared of being evicted … I'm scared of my car being repo'd. Scared of my lights getting turned off. Scared of my gas being turned off."

And scared she won't see any back pay for four weeks of missed work at the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum where she's a security guard. Hamilton protects government buildings but as a contractor, she doesn't feel the government is there to protect her.

"It's really stressful not knowing where my money is coming from, not knowing when, when I'm going to be able to buy my son his next meal," Hamilton said.

She said she can't afford to buy the lunch her 5-year-old likes to take to school but was told she makes too much income for food stamps.

"He's kind of sad about that. He doesn't get the things that he usually gets," Hamilton said.

Meanwhile, nearly 1,500 miles away near the Mexican border, another government contractor, Kevin Doyle, also is struggling to feed his children.

"We went through the car and found all the change that we had," Doyle said. "I went in the seats, trying to find out how much money we had to our name, which was nothing at the time, but we scraped up $3.89 for a Happy Meal for my 4-year-old. And we both sit there and cried in the parking lot in McDonald's."

He had issues paying for her recent doctor's visit and couldn't afford his mortgage, or his oldest daughter's college tuition.

"When it comes down to not being able to provide for your children, that day was the most heartbreaking day I've ever had," Doyle said.

Still, Doyle quit his job as a contract encryption specialist for the Air Force.

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Loniece Hamilton   CBS News

"As soon as we got the notice that everything was opening back up and we were not going to be paid, I'm like, 'I can't do this no more. This is it. I'm done,'" Doyle said.

Today, he's starting a new job as a contractor in the private sector but it comes with a pay cut – more than $30,000.  "If they want to bicker somewhere else in Washington, D.C. or elsewhere," Doyle said. "We shouldn't be held accountable for their actions."

Now, dozens of Democrats in Congress agree. Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal is backing a bill that would provide back pay to low-wage contractors.

"We have to take it as one of the costs of that shutdown, which could have been avoided, if the president simply had come to his senses a little bit earlier," Blumenthal said.

By one estimate, 3.7 million people work for the government as contractors, doing $200 million worth of work each week. But that no longer includes Kevin Doyle.

"They mention 800,000 workers, but they never mention the contractors that work in and around them, and that's just not fair," Doyle said.

No Republican currently sponsors that bill that would provide back pay for contractors. But Sen.  Blumenthal told us that the issue is likely to come up in the ongoing negotiations over border security designed to avoid another government shutdown, which by the way would start two weeks from today.