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Furloughed Ames Research Center Workers Get Aid During Shutdown

MOUNTAIN VIEW (KPIX 5) – While hundreds of federal workers in the Bay Area were fuming Thursday as the nation approached week three of the government shutdown, one group of local employees is getting a little financial relief.

At the Ramada Inn in Mountain View, the union for NASA Ames employees has set up a so-called "help room" for workers seeking assistance. Friday will be the first day the Ames Research Center's 1,200 employees will not receive a paycheck. Worry is starting to set in.

Thursday morning, a number of workers came in to see what help is available.

The Ames Federal Employees Union is providing $100 checks to any member who walks in the door.

It's not much, they admit, but it is something.

Maybe some child or some family, it helps with the grocery bill, or their cell phone bill or electricity bill. Anything that we can help with at this time, said union shop steward Janette Rocha.

At the NASA Ames Research Lab, all non-essential employees including engineers, scientists and program managers have been furloughed for the past 20 days.

Rocha said it is has been stressful.

"It's not a vacation. It's not. It's very depressing," she said. "That's all I can tell you. It's very depressing."

The highly-skilled workers make anywhere from $110,000 to $150,000 a year.

Many have come to the help room to learn how to apply for unemployment, which could get them up to $1,000 a month.

They can also apply for a no or low-interest emergency loan at their credit union and get up to $2,500 per paycheck. If they pay back the loan within 60 days of the end of the shutdown, they will not be charged interest.

Still, all that together is likely not enough to cover the sky high cost of living in the Bay Area.

"That's starting to stress me out," said Ames research engineer Robert Conrad Rorie.

Rorie said he has some money saved up and -- if he needs to -- can borrow from his girlfriend and family.

The union says even if the shutdown ends soon, it will take weeks for employees to get their normal paychecks again.

"It certainly feels like the president has zero sense of accountability for people," said Rorie. "It's obviously a political stunt. It really comes down to people like us who aren't getting any paychecks right now."

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