By Robbie Owens

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The political stalemate that shut down the government, today hit many workers squarely in the pocket: no paychecks on what should have been their first payday of the year.

“I feel helpless and sad,” says Angelica Siftsoff from her home near Rice, about 45 miles south of Dallas. “I feel like I was providing for my family, but now…”

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Siftsoff is among the hundreds of thousands of government workers now forced to stretch every dollar, not knowing when the shutdown will end. Siftsoff says she spends her nervous energy now cleaning her already spotless home — and worrying.

“Are they going to stop our insurance? What if I have an emergency and my insurance is not working… what am I going to do?”

The disabled Navy veteran says she is still undergoing treatment for PTSD. And the mother of two wants to make one thing clear: this is no vacation.

“I went to my landlord and asked her what can I do? There is nothing. I have to pay my rent.”

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Obviously, there are no guarantees; but, Siftsoff has the right idea: gather the bills, and then figure out a plan. Contact creditors, first, rather than just missing a payment. Ask lenders if you can move payments on major obligations, like a mortgage or a car note, to the end of the loan. Experts say a partial payment is better than nothing, and of course, eliminate all but critical spending. Use credit cards as a last resort.

“The message is: we work hard at what we do,” says Becky Mancha with TSA, “and all we ask is that we get paid for the work we do.” Messages like that resonated across the nation Thursday as furloughed government workers staged protests over the shutdown. Keep in mind, employees considered “essential”, such as those working in security, prisons, or TSA, must still report to work (and incur work related expenses like transportation and childcare); but, still aren’t getting paid. And today, it’s back to worrying about the bills.

“It’s hard because I live outside Dallas,” says Siftsoff. “I cannot just go and get to the food pantry and get some help because here I have to drive everywhere… that’s gas. That’s money.”

And who knows when she will see her next paycheck. A sliver of good news, though: with this first missed paycheck, workers are now able to file for unemployment benefits. But, what most want, is to be able to get back to work– or get paid for the hours that they’re already putting in.

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“It’s not fair,” adds Siftsoff. “It’s not fair.”