By Michael Abeyta

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – While lawmakers return from vacation and bicker over how the nation’s money should be spent, thousands of Coloradans are paying the price. Chris Janssen and David Dollard are prison guards at a federal prison in Jefferson County. Right now they — along with thousands of other prison guards in Colorado — are working a dangerous job without pay because of the government shutdown.

Chris Janssen, left, and David Dollard, right (credit: CBS)

“Our salaries aren’t even competitive with (Denver Police Department). We make quite a bit less, so when we have a lapse in our paycheck we feel it,” said Janssen.

The shutdown has them worried about if they are going to be paid for their normal workload and the overtime they have to work.

“So if one person doesn’t go to work that day and they need to fill that position, you’re going to be staying another shift without pay,” Janssen said.

(credit: CBS)

“We had four people on Christmas Day that were mandatory to stay overtime so they worked from midnight to 8 a.m. and then just before that they were told that they weren’t going home,” Dollard said.

They have a lot of questions, such as who will take care of their children if they aren’t home or how will they pay their bills.

“We can’t call our mortgage company and say ‘Hey, sorry the government shut down so I’m not paying you either,” Janssen said.

Their message to lawmakers who are using their livelihood as a bargaining chip is simple. They want an agreement to be reached as soon as possible.

“We have personal lives in the balance right now,”

Another thing this shutdown has done is hold up the legislative timeline which means a bill the prison guards helped craft that would provide more help and safer working conditions for them is delayed. So not only are they working long hours without pay, they also have to wait even longer to improve their already dangerous working situation.

Michael Abeyta is a 4th generation Coloradan and a Multimedia Journalist for CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 5 & 6. He is on Twitter! Follow him @AbeytaCBS4.