Workers get $0 pay stubs
Federal employees received pay stubs with nothing but zeros Friday as the effects of the shutdown hit home.
An estimated 800,000 government workers missed their paychecks for the first time since the shutdown began.
Employees posted pictures of the pay statements 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.
“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.
Roughly 420,000 federal employees were deemed essential and are working unpaid. An additional 380,000 are staying home without pay. While furloughed workers have been given back pay in previous shutdowns, there is no guarantee this time.
Workers are turning to Uber 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 rideshare 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 who said she makes about $38,000 a year as a TSA officer. “I don’t want to get into a deeper hole.”
Fellow Las Vegas-based TSA agent Julia Peters applied for food stamps on Thursday and was approved. She said five of the eight other applicants at the benefits office were also TSA workers.
In Falls Church, Va., a school district held a hiring fair for furloughed federal employees interested in working as substitute teachers.
Gerri French, who works for the Department of Agriculture and has been furloughed along with her husband, liked the sound of that. “I think it’s a really great school system, and this would be a great opportunity,” French said.
Chris George, 48, of Hemet, Calif., 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 forestry technician 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 economy $3.6 billion so far.
The typical federal employee makes $37 an hour, which translates into $1,480 a week. That’s nearly $1.2 billion in lost pay each week, when multiplied by 800,000 workers.
Many workers live paycheck to paycheck. A Federal Reserve survey in May found that 40 percent of Americans would have to borrow or sell something to make a $400 emergency payment.
Government workers are scaling back spending, canceling trips, applying for unemployment benefits and taking out loans to stay afloat.
In Denver, three-quarters of the people who visited the Food Bank of the Rockies’ mobile pantry on Friday were furloughed federal employees.
In Massachusetts, a private group has stepped up to ensure that those working at local Coast Guard stations have food and clothing.
Esther Anastasia protests with government workers and their supporters in Boston on Friday. The workers rallied with Democratic U.S. Sen. Ed Markey to urge that President Donald Trump put an end to the shutdown so they can get back to work.