Fed­eral work­ers get $0 pay stubs as gov­ern­ment shut­down drags on

The Daily Courier - - WORLD - By The As­so­ci­ated Press

Fed­eral em­ploy­ees re­ceived pay stubs with nothing but ze­ros on them Fri­day as the ef­fects of the gov­ern­ment shut­down hit home, deep­en­ing anx­i­eties about mort­gage pay­ments and un­paid bills.

All told, an es­ti­mated 800,000 gov­ern­ment work­ers missed their pay­checks for the first time since the shut­down be­gan.

Em­ploy­ees posted pictures of the pay state­ments on Twit­ter and vented their frus­tra­tion as the stand­off over Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s de­mand for $5.7 bil­lion for a bor­der wall en­tered its 21st day.

This week­end, it will be­come the long­est shut­down in U.S. his­tory.

“I saw the ze­ros in my pay stub to­day, and it’s a com­bi­na­tion of re­al­ity set­ting in and just sad­ness,” air traf­fic con­troller Josh Maria said. “We’re Amer­ica. We can do bet­ter than this.”

The missed pay­checks were just one sign of the mount­ing toll the shut­down is tak­ing on Amer­i­cans’ daily lives.

The Mi­ami air­port is clos­ing a ter­mi­nal this week­end be­cause se­cu­rity screen­ers have been call­ing in sick at twice the nor­mal rate.

Home­buy­ers are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing de­lays in get­ting their loans.

Roughly 420,000 fed­eral em­ploy­ees were deemed es­sen­tial and are work­ing un­paid. An ad­di­tional 380,000 are stay­ing home with­out pay.

While fur­loughed fed­eral work­ers have been given back pay in pre­vi­ous shut­downs, there is no guar­an­tee that will happen this time.

Work­ers are turn­ing to Uber, Lyft and other side gigs to pick up some money in the mean­time.

Ellen Jack­son, a Trans­porta­tion Se­cu­rity Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cer based in Las Ve­gas, is driv­ing full time for a ride-share com­pany to get by. The 59-year-old is plan­ning to re­tire in April.

“I don’t want to bor­row any money,” said Jack­son, an Air Force vet­eran. “I don’t want to get into a deeper hole.”

Fel­low Las Ve­gas-based TSA agent Ju­lia Peters ap­plied for food stamps Thurs­day and was ap­proved.

Chris Ge­orge, 48, of Hemet, Cal­i­for­nia, has picked up work as a handy­man, turned to a crowd­fund­ing site to raise cash and started driv­ing at Lyft af­ter be­ing fur­loughed from his job as a su­per­vi­sor for the U.S. For­est Ser­vice.

But the side gigs aren’t mak­ing much dif­fer­ence, and he has been try­ing to work with his mort­gage com­pany to avoid miss­ing a pay­ment.

“Here we are, Day 21, and all three par­ties can­not even ne­go­ti­ate like adults,” he said, de­scrib­ing gov­ern­ment work­ers like him as “be­ing pawns for an agenda of a wall. You’re not go­ing to put a wall across the Rio Grande, I’m sorry.”

Econ­o­mists at S&P Global said the shut­down has cost the U.S. econ­omy $3.6 bil­lion so far.

The typ­i­cal fed­eral em­ployee makes $37 an hour, which trans­lates into $1,480 a week, ac­cord­ing to La­bor De­part­ment data. That’s nearly $1.2 bil­lion in lost pay each week, when mul­ti­plied by 800,000 fed­eral work­ers.

Many work­ers live pay­cheque to pay­cheque, de­spite the strong econ­omy and the ul­tra-low un­em­ploy­ment rate.

A Fed­eral Re­serve sur­vey in May found that 40 per cent of Amer­i­cans would have to bor­row or sell some­thing to make a $400 emer­gency pay­ment.

Gov­ern­ment work­ers are scal­ing back spend­ing, can­celling trips, ap­ply­ing for un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fits and tak­ing out loans to stay afloat.

Maria, who is based in Wash­ing­ton, was al­ready in a fi­nan­cially pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tion be­cause of two cross-coun­try moves in 2018 and the birth of a pre­ma­ture son. The shut­down has made mat­ters much worse.

“I’m just not pay­ing cer­tain bills. Car pay­ments are be­ing de­layed, which is go­ing to put a hit on the credit,” he said. “Credit card pay­ments are be­ing de­layed.”

Maria took out a per­sonal loan last week just in case. Now he is pulling his fouryear-old daugh­ter out of day care and telling his seven-year-old son he can­not sign up for ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties.

Most gov­ern­ment work­ers re­ceived their last pay­cheque two weeks ago. Around the coun­try, some work­ers are re­ly­ing on do­na­tions, in­clud­ing launch­ing GoFundMe cam­paigns. Food pantries have opened up in sev­eral lo­ca­tions.

First Ok­la­homa Bank in sub­ur­ban Tulsa is waiv­ing over­draft fees for cus­tomers who are fed­eral em­ploy­ees.

In Den­ver, three-quar­ters of the peo­ple who vis­ited the Food Bank of the Rock­ies’ mo­bile pantry on Fri­day were first-time vis­i­tors and fur­loughed fed­eral em­ploy­ees, said Cait Bar­nett, a mar­ket­ing spe­cial­ist for the food bank.

Demo­cratic Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado said she will not take her pay­cheque as long as fed­eral work­ers are un­paid.

The As­so­ci­ated Press

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump leads a round­table dis­cus­sion on bor­der se­cu­rity with local leaders Fri­day in the Cab­i­net Room of the White House in Wash­ing­ton.

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