Federal employees are missing out on more than $2 billion worth of paychecks Friday, as the partial government shutdown drags into its third week.
According to data from the Center for American Progress (CAP), nearly 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed and are going without pay or have been required to work without pay since the start of the shutdown on December 21. (ThinkProgress is an editorially independent publication housed at the Center for American Progress.)
Friday, if the government were open and fully funded, would have been payday. Instead, many workers opened up pay stubs reading “$0.”
According to CAP’s Saharra Griffin, special assistant to the chief operating officer and the senior vice president of Policy and Strategy, who compiled the numbers, the $2 billion figure accounts for at least 632,932 furloughed employees or those working without pay.
That estimate doesn’t include federal contractors, “mostly low-wage workers…who are unlikely to receive backpay after the shutdown ends,” Griffin told ThinkProgress.
“To make ends meet, many federal workers will rely on private loans from banks and payday lenders, but any backpay they receive will not account for fees and interest,” she added.
The shutdown — which began after Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill were unable to come to an agreement on funding for President Trump’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall — means that $636,842,000 is being withheld from employees at the Department of Homeland Security alone for each two week pay period that the government remains shuttered, according to the study. Department of Justice employees are missing out on $413,416,000, and Department of Treasury employees are missing $214,680,000 per paycheck.
CREDIT: CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS
Following every previous shutdown, Congress has passed legislation to backpay employees, but, as the CAP report notes, employees working for federal contractors are much less likely to receive any backpay. BuzzFeed reported earlier this week that nearly 25,000 federal workers are still waiting for their backpay from the 2013 shutdown.
Earlier this week, Trump, a millionaire by age 8, said he can relate to the pain of the hundreds of thousands of federal employees who are unable to pay their bills.
“I can relate, and I’m sure that the people who are on the receiving end will make adjustments. They always do. They’ll make adjustments,” he said Sunday. “People understand exactly what’s going on. But many of those people that won’t be receiving a paycheck, many of those people agree 100 percent with what I’m doing.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pushed back on those comments Wednesday, following a meeting with the president.
“Many federal workers will not be receiving their paychecks, and what that means in their lives is tragic…the president seems to be insensitive to that,” she said. “He thinks maybe they could just ask their father for more money. But they can’t.”
The shutdown entered its 21st day on Friday, as Trump continued to dig in on his demand for more than $5 billion to build a southern border wall. Republicans have begun slowly defecting to join Democrats to pass bills that would reopen most of the government, while continuing the debate over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, though it’s unclear whether any will make it past the Senate or if Trump will agree to sign them.
In addition to the lost paychecks, people across the country are starting to see the devastating effects of the shutdown.
As The New York Times reported Wednesday, the FDA has stopped routine food inspections of seafood, fruits, and vegetables, and many people who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to feed their families could be looking at a cut in benefits if the shutdown continues into next month.
Many employees have also begun filing unemployment claims or considered taking out loans to cover their monthly expenses; some, such as one TSA employee who spoke to ThinkProgress last month, have said they may have to cancel future travel plans to attend things like family members’ funerals, while others have begun turning to food banks for assistance in making ends meet.
“Trump’s shutdown has underscored the vital role the federal government plays in every community across America,” Griffin said. “Federal workers don’t approach their jobs as Democrats or Republicans — they’re public servants. It’s irresponsible and demeaning for the President and Senate Republicans to hold them hostage as a political stunt.”
She added, “For the sake of so-called border security and public safety, President Trump and Senate Republicans have ironically chosen to shut down the nation’s immigration courts and force federal law enforcement officers to work without pay.”
This article has been updated to include comments from CAP’s Saharra Griffin.