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Government shutdown has furloughed Castle Rock mom worried about next paycheck

We've heard a lot from politicians about the latest government shutdown. Now, we're hearing from a woman caught in the middle of it who's not interested in scoring political points. She just wants a paycheck.

With the travel books spread across their coffee table, Howard and Tonya Hiers light up with excitement about a trip across Europe they've been planning for 15 years.

As a teenager, Howard went to school in Switzerland and since before his son was born, he and Tonya planned for their child to celebrate his 16th birthday in the same place as Howard. They've saved about $15,000 for the big trip, but that's now money they may have to use to keep a roof over their heads.

Tonya works for the Department of Housing and Urban Development as a single-family housing specialist where she monitors contractors to assure they're properly selling homes. Because her position is considered non-essential, she's been furloughed for the past couple of weeks.

"Yeah, I've saved up for this," Tonya said. "But I have to pay my mortgage before I go on a trip to Switzerland."

Tonya's earnings make up nearly half of their household income, she said. She has been making payments with a credit card and hoping she'll be able to foot the bill. Howard tried to defer mortgage and car payments to buy more time until Tonya can get another paycheck.

For the first time ever, Tonya said she was late on her mortgage.

Before she was furloughed, Tonya picked up a second job during the holiday season working retail.

"Now, that's the only income I have coming in," she said. "It's making me feel like I'm not contributing enough to the family."

Tonya said she's not asking for a handout. She just wants to go back to work and "do my job that I love to do." She said Congress, unfortunately, took that away from her. Now she said she's stressed and finds it hard to get out of bed in the morning.

"I want [Congress] to think about this, that you get a paycheck," Tonya said. "You're able to pay your rent, your mortgage, your food. I don't know where that's coming from right now."

For now, the books she and her husband collected for years may be the closest they get to Europe anytime soon, at least not until they know when or if Tonya's next paycheck will come.

"I can't in my heart of hearts use that money for a trip if my mortgage is due," Tonya said.

As of 12 p.m. Thursday, 357 federal workers in Colorado filed for unemployment. Almost half of those are with the Department of Interior. The others were with the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Treasury and various federal contractors.

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