Thu | Jan 17, 2019

Federal workers get $0 pay stubs as shutdown drags on

Published:Sunday | January 13, 2019 | 12:10 AM
US President Donald Trump

 

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

All told, an estimated 800,000 government employees missed their paychecks for the first time since the shutdown began three weeks ago.

Fuming employees posted pictures of the $0 pay stubs on Twitter and vented their frustration as the standoff entered its 21st day. This weekend, it will become the longest shutdown in U.S. history.

Some Democratic lawmakers seized on the empty pay stubs as a way to renew criticism of President Donald Trump, who triggered the shutdown over his demands for funding for a border wall.

Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia tweeted: "It should be payday for hundreds of thousands of federal workers. But thanks to Trump, many are actually getting pay stubs like this. He's treating them like the countless contractors he stiffed throughout his business career."

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.

Government contractors, who have been placed indefinitely on unpaid leave, don't get compensated for lost hours.

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 paycheck to paycheck, despite the strong economy and the ultra-low unemployment rate, and would struggle if their wages or salaries were interrupted. 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, canceling trips, applying for unemployment benefits and taking out loans to stay afloat. Some are trying to land second jobs.

Rachael Weatherly, a senior adviser for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said she is considering trying to get a job at a grocery store. Weatherly, a Maryland resident and mother of two young children, said a recent separation from her spouse drained her bank account, and she is just beginning to re-establish her savings. She cannot afford to miss one paycheck.

"I filed for unemployment. I'm waiting for that to come through," she said.

Weatherly said her day care provider agreed to defer payments, as did her mortgage company. But she still worries any late mortgage payments could harm her credit score. The uncertainty, she said, is heightening her concerns.

"I just don't see how this is going to end," she said.

For those looking for second jobs, however, opportunities seem plentiful. There are more open jobs than there are unemployed workers, according to Labour Department data. Employers posted 6.9 million jobs in November, the latest figures available.

AP