WASHINGTON (AP) _ Like many Americans, Ashley Appleton had financial worries.

Specifically, she feared another government shutdown would cost her. So, in proper U.S. democratic fashion, she wrote to her congressman, asking for help.

``Soon my allowance will go down back to 25 cents,'' 9-year-old Ashley of Merrimac, Mass., wrote to Rep. Peter Torkildsen last month, after both her parents were furloughed in the six-day partial government shutdown.

``I know you don't want to know about my allowance, ... so I have a problem and you can help me with it,'' Ashley wrote to Torkildsen, a Massachusetts Republican. ``Please can you do anything to change your decision about government offices closing down.''

As it turns out, Ashley, a fourth-grader who said she learned her parents might be temporarily out of work by listening to news on the radio, doesn't need Torkildsen's help.

Her parents work for the Defense Department, which will not be affected in the next wave of furloughs that could kick in after midnight tonight, unless lawmakers and the White House agree on a stopgap measure to keep federal agencies running.

But Ashley is not alone in her concern.

Across the country, citizens have complained to members of Congress that civil servants _ many living from paycheck to paycheck _ are the ones hurt most by the inability of politicians to settle their budget disputes.

Some started worrying about workers, often friends or relatives, in late summer, when it became apparent that the Republican-led Congress and Democratic White House would not agree on a budget deal in time for the Oct. 1 start of the 1996 federal fiscal year.

Others were provoked by the idling of 800,000 government workers in November. This time, about 280,000 civil servants face the prospect of being furloughed.

``What happens to the federal workers not getting paid?'' Rhoda B. Strauss of East Providence, R.I., wrote during the last shutdown to Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I.

Strauss blamed ``fat cats'' in Congress who ``cannot get together and come up with a satisfactory budget for this wonderful great country of ours. We have money and help for every country that asks, but for our own we seem to have a problem.''

Mary Alice Kelly, a nurse and mother of three from Raytown, Mo., who is married to an Interior Department hydro-geologist, became concerned in September, when she was 7 1/2 months pregnant with her third child.

``I'm asking you and your co-workers to please compromise on the budget and pass it by Sept. 30,'' wrote Mrs. Kelly, whose daughter was born four days into the November shutdown and her husband's furlough.

``If you can't do that, then please write me back with suggestions for how I'm supposed to pay my bills when they come due in October,'' she wrote to Rep. Karen McCarthy, D-Mo.

Ultimately, the Kellys didn't miss a paycheck. And they're more optimistic about the chances for quick agreement on a stopgap measure this time around.

``I would be worried if this was the first furlough we were looking at, this close to Christmas,'' said Mrs. Kelly, reached by telephone at her home.