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Federal employees are increasingly concerned about a long shutdown

Adriana Belmonte
Associate Editor

This post was updated.

With the government shutdown almost four weeks long, federal workers are arguably feeling the brunt of it. There are about 380,000 federal employees currently on furlough and about 420,000 working without pay after being deemed essential.

President Trump recently claimed that many federal workers — even those who aren’t being paid — “are the biggest fans of what we are doing,” referring to the shutdown.

But some experts and federal workers are hearing and feeling differently. Despite Trump signing a bill guaranteeing back pay for federal employees, many workers are fed up with the lack of progress being made on the shutdown.

(Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

“I think most federal workers want the federal government to be reopened,” Raymond James Washington Policy Analyst Ed Mills told Yahoo Finance’s “The First Trade” recently. “When I go around talking to folks here in D.C. about this shutdown, there’s a lot more uncertainty about this one than previous ones. They are very concerned about how long it’s going to last.”

Tens of thousands of federal employees are seeking unemployment benefits and the numbers are growing, according to the New York Times. And, some have even turned to crowdfunding to stabilize their cash flow until their paychecks return.

“Nine of 15 federal agencies have been affected by the current shutdown,” the Wall Street Journal reported. With federal employees being forced to work without pay, Mills noted that the lack of income is starting to affect their lives.

“[People] say they’re OK now, but come next month when bills are due…” Mills said, “A lot of families, single-family earners, are very concerned about daycare payments and exactly how they make their mortgage or their rent.”

‘I know how hard my husband works’

Many federal employees can’t even afford diapers for their young children.

“I can’t not change them. They can’t survive like that,” Jojo, who omitted her last name due to not being allowed to speak to the press, told HuffPost. “You have to take care of the little ones. You don’t want to jeopardize their health and wellness.”

Meghan Nester, an Alabama resident whose husband has been furloughed from a NASA facility in Huntsville, told the Washington Post that the government shutdown length will get “a lot more real” when the next paycheck doesn’t come through.

“I know how hard my husband works,” she said, “and it must be demoralizing to be sent home with no pay and no resolution in sight.”

Rusty Long, an architect for the Agriculture Department, told the Wall Street Journal that his paycheck is his family’s only source of income.

As a result of the shutdown, “we’re not going out to eat, we’re cooking every meal at home, and there were conversations about what could we stop if we needed to and what could I do to bring in additional income,” he said.

Another federal employee, Suhailah Stevenson, told the WSJ that she is late on paying several bills already.

“I am in a state of being unsure, I am in a state of anguish, I don’t know what I should do, I don’t know if I should go and apply for unemployment, I don’t know if I should apply for another job,” Stevenson, who works in human resources for the Homeland Security Department, said.

Government shutdown length driven by ‘intractable’ negotiations

The nation’s capital is feeling the strongest effects from the shutdown since it has the highest share of federal jobs, the highest percentage of families receiving SNAP food stamps, and the highest federal contract dollars per capita.

And tensions in D.C. continue to rise as Trump has reached a stalemate with Democratic politicians, largely due to funding for his proposed border wall.

Some states will be hit harder than others, no matter the government shutdown length. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

“What we have here in this fight is that Democrats don’t want to vote for [any money] of a no. 1 priority of the president, especially in the House,” Mills said. “They came to Washington to challenge President Trump, so that’s part of the reason why we’re in such a difficult perspective. Trump doesn’t want to explain how he came off of his position and Democrats don’t want to explain how they came off of [theirs], and so that’s part of the reason why it’s intractable at this point.”

Federal employees affected by the shutdown include those who work for TSA, national parks and museums, the FBI, the Coast Guard, Secret Service, DEA, and the IRS. Only about 12% of IRS employees are still working, which could result in billions of dollars worth of tax refunds being delayed.

“Democrats aren’t incentivized to negotiate here and the president isn’t incentivized to come off of this, especially since 75% of the government is actually funded at this point,” Mills said. “So we don’t know exactly what is going to be that point that changes this, but it’s going to have to come by someone compromising. Neither side wants to be that person.”

Adriana is an associate editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.

This post was originally published on Jan. 7. 

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