World Central kitchen provided food for Federal workers

Chef and activist Jose Andres’s food-relief organization World Central Kitchen serves free meals and goods to federal workers who have been effected by the partial government shutdown in Washington, United States on January 22, 2019.

Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Despite efforts by both Democrats and Republicans to reopen the government, the shutdown continues while the federal paychecks aren’t going out.

On Thursday, the Senate blocked President Donald Trump’s proposal to fund a $5.7 billion wall and fund the government; a Democratic counter proposal that did not include wall funding also failed.

Today marks the second missed paycheck of nearly 800,000 furloughed federal workers. The partial shutdown is now in its 35th day and the longest in history.

Ripple effects of the shutdown

As the shutdown continues, its threats to the economy, industries and individuals continue to snowball.

On a macro level, the White House estimates the shutdown will cost the economy 0.1 percent in GDP each week, or double its original estimate, according to CNBC. Some experts estimate that should the government remain partly closed through March, first-quarter growth could fall to zero, tipping the economy toward a recession, as reported by Politico.

In total, the shutdown is estimated to cost more than $5 billion.

Insurance coverage for federal workers is now at risk. Recent guidance from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management indicated that unless workers started paying their dental and vision premiums directly, their BENEFEDS coverage would be terminated.

Even air travel is affected by the shutdown. Airline industry union workers released a statement on Wednesday warning of the “unprecedented” risk the shutdown brings, citing understaffing, absent workers and a lack of safety inspectors posing a major threat to the safety of air travel in the country. On Friday morning, the FAA temporarily halted flights into New York’s LaGuardia Airport because of a shortage of TSA workers.

And as for the future of the federal workforce, some experts question how the shutdown will change retention and recruitment.

“As we see growing impacts on vital functions of the federal workforce including food inspections, transportation funding, TSA security and air traffic control, we’re reminded that the nation is reliant on a fully-functioning and engaged government,” says Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate. “The primary goal of any employer is to attract and retain good workers. In that regards, the shutdown is violently counterproductive.”

On Wednesday, a group of Senators rallied against the office, demanding it work to create alternative payment arrangements instead of forcing workers to tap into their savings.

Resources for federal workers still without pay

The shutdown has put immense strain on the financial wellbeing of federal workers; some are now turning to food banks to feed their families.

According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Household Economics and Decision Making, almost a quarter of government workers in 2017 said they rarely or never have money left over at the end of the month.

Bryan Ward, an economist at the University of Montana, estimates that about 200,00 of the 800,000 workers, or one-fourth, affected by the shutdown were struggling before the shutdown even occurred. And now, their situations are even worse.

“Another 200-250K were likely doing okish before the shutdown, but a full month without a paycheck is likely imposing a real burden on these families,” Ward said in a tweet.

Aside from being without funds, workers are now facing credit damage from unpaid bills and  increased identity theft risk. The fate of March benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) remains unclear.

For federal workers struggling during the shutdown, there is relief.

A few resources offering assistance to those affected by the shutdown include:

What banks are doing

Some financial institutions have stepped up to help furloughed workers. For example, U.S. Bank is offering low-interest loans for customers in need of assistance during the shutdown.

Other institutions are working on a case-by-case basis. Wells Fargo has launched a shutdown assistance website to help affected customers receive assistance. Citigroup will make adjustments to fees and interest rates of affected customers, and Bank of America has notified eligible customers of assistance.

What lenders are doing

Federal workers with personal loans who can’t make payments might have some relief. The following lenders are offering assistance to affected customers:

  • Marcus by Goldman Sachs
  • SoFi
  • Payoff
  • Wells Fargo
  • Prosper
  • LendingClub

For specifics on how these lenders are helping, and how to contact them for relief, click here.

What mortgage companies are doing

As funds continue to dwindle for many, fear of defaulting on a mortgage and losing a home could grow.

The following lenders are offering assistance programs to clients impacted by the shutdown:

  • FedChoice Federal Credit Union
  • USAA
  • Navy Federal Credit Union
  • Bank of America
  • Quicken Loans
  • U.S. Bank
  • Wells Fargo

For specifics on how these lenders are helping, and how to contact them for relief, click here.

Unemployment benefits

Furloughed workers considering filing for unemployment benefits should carefully consider their options. Only those who are furloughed can file; those who are reporting to work, but aren’t being paid, cannot.

Additionally, workers who receive unemployment benefits will have to pay them back once the government reopens and they receive back pay.

For more information on how furloughed workers can qualify and apply for unemployment benefits, click here.

Free advice

Some financial services companies are reaching out specifically to furloughed workers, offering free consultations for how to manage their money during this time.

Betterment, for example, is offering free, short consultation sessions via phone to any government employee affected by the shutdown. The company hopes to “provide guidance” to those considering withdrawing from retirement accounts, using credit cards or taking out a loan to help get by while not receiving pay.

Learn more: