US government workers given $0 pay slips as shutdown drags on – Donald Trump’s America
US government employees have received pay slips with nothing but zeros on them as the effects of the government shutdown hit home, deepening anxieties about mortgage payments and unpaid bills.
- Many government workers are turning to other jobs to make money
- Those affected by the shutdown were last paid two weeks ago
- Economists estimate the shutdown has cost the US economy about $4.9 billion already
An estimated 800,000 US government workers have not been paid their wages for the first time since the shutdown began.
Pictures of the pay statements have been posted on social media and workers have vented their frustrations as the standoff over US President Donald Trump’s demand for $US5.7 billion ($7.9 billion) for a border wall entered its 21st day.
This weekend, it will become the longest shutdown in US 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.”
US Senator Tina Smith tweet: “800,000 federal workers didn’t get paid today because of President Trump’s shutdown. Some still got paystubs. Here’s one from a Minnesota air traffic controller. Unbelievable.”
The missed payments 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.
About 420,000 government employees deemed essential 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 side gigs to earn money
Government workers are scaling back spending, cancelling trips, applying for unemployment benefits and taking out loans to stay afloat.
Most received their last pay two weeks ago.
Around the country, some workers are relying on donations, including launching GoFundMe campaigns.
Food pantries have opened up in several locations.
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, who is an Air Force veteran that makes about $52,655 a year, is planning to retire in April.
“I don’t want to borrow any money,” Ms Jackson said.
“I don’t want to get into a deeper hole.”
Fellow Las Vegas-based TSA agent Julia Peters applied for food stamps this week and was approved.
She said five of the eight other applicants at the benefits office were also TSA workers.
Other furloughed employees have considered working as substitute teachers and have earned money doing odd jobs.
Californian Chris George, 48, who has picked up some work as a handyman, turned to a crowdfunding site to raise some cash and started driving for a ride-sharing company.
But the side gigs are not 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.
He described government workers like him as “being pawns for an agenda of a wall”.
The cost of the shutdown
Economists at S&P Global said the shutdown has cost the US economy $4.9 billion so far.
The typical federal employee makes $51 an hour, which translates into $2,051 a week, according to Labor Department data.
That is more than $1.6 billion in lost pay each week, when multiplied by 800,000 federal workers.
Many workers live pay cheque to pay cheque, despite the strong economy and the low unemployment rate.
Furloughed workers have been given back pay following previous shutdowns. (Reuters: Jason Reed)