Pitkin County commissioners on Wednesday passed an emergency resolution that paves the way for federal workers who have been furloughed by the government shutdown to gain temporary county employment.
Pitkin County Manager Jon Peacock sought the resolution as a way to help federal workers and their families survive the shutdown. He said the county has several jobs that can be filled temporarily, especially at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. The resolution allows the county to bypass certain hiring practices, such as background checks, so that the temp jobs can be filled more quickly than usual.
“We’ve got some opportunities in the short term that would be temporary in nature,” Peacock said. “We’re in the 33rd day of this furlough that’s affecting approximately 800,000 federal employees. This Friday, they’ll miss their second paycheck. That’s going to put a lot of families in a difficult situation; that’s going to put a lot of people in our valley in a challenging situation. We’re a high-cost area.”
Peacock said he did not know exactly how many local federal workers are being affected by the shutdown. Many employees, such as those working for the Transportation Security Administration or the air-traffic control tower at the airport, are considered “essential” and continue to do their jobs without pay. Members of the community have been leaving canned goods and prepared meals for them at an airport office.
Others affected by the shutdown include some 150 furloughed employees of the White River National Forest, which stretches from the Roaring Fork Valley to Summit County.
Peacock said the jobs that are available through the county include “people movers” who can assist with the often long lines at the airport’s TSA checkpoint. The county also needs help outside the airport in keeping the drop-off and pick-up parking areas free of unattended vehicles. The jobs can pay between $20 and $25 per hour, he said, and money is already allotted within the county government’s 2019 budget for the temporary positions.
Other temporary jobs are available in various departments, including community development, open space and trails, and public works. In all, there are about eight to nine positions within the county that federal furloughed workers could fill temporarily, he said.
“We saw a need, and we saw an opportunity, because these federal employees are often highly skilled,” Peacock said. “They are in need of work, and we think that we can bring them on and benefit our community and our community members.”
Peacock said there are other temp jobs in the area that could be handled by furloughed federal workers. He said he’s been in contact with the local Habitat for Humanity office, which could use some help.
“We’re not going to go out and handpick any of these employees, we want them to come to us,” Peacock said.
He noted that once the shutdown ends, the county will return to its usual hiring systems. Peacock acknowledged that there’s a slight risk involved in hiring workers who may have to return to their regular jobs within days or a couple of weeks if the shutdown ends.
Habitat for Humanity’s Roaring Fork Valley office in Glenwood Springs can be reached at (970) 945-9138. Scott Gilbert is its president.
The number for the county’s human resources personnel is (970) 920-5240. Potential employees will be required to show proof that they are federal workers who’ve been furloughed.