Money Matters: Shutdown stories

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Over the weekend, the current partial government shutdown affecting many federal agencies will become the longest shutdown ever.

The shutdown, affecting some 800,000 federal workers who are either furloughed or working without pay, is creating ripples across the country and is a major story not just for local political reporters but also for business and consumer reporters because of how the shutdown is affecting not only federal workers’ wallets but many others’ in local communities too.

Federal workers
Friday, January 11, is the first payday for which checks will not go out to around federal workers who are furloughed or working without pay. If you’re reporting in an area with many federal workers – Washington, D.C. but also throughout the country – take note of some impacts on those workers to look into:

  • Some employees aren’t allowed to get second jobs without approval, but in many cases their managers are furloughed, too, leaving them stuck.
  • Furloughed federal workers may file for unemployment, but would need to pay it back should back pay be approved by Congress.
  • In order to maintain the clearances they need to hold their jobs, many clearance holders need to meet financial requirements, and losing income during the shutdown could lead to the loss of clearances if their financial status suffers.
  • Some federal workers trying to buy homes or do anything requiring income verification are unable to get the documents they need.
  • Furloughed workers are not accruing annual or sick leave during the shutdown and promotions are delayed.
  • While going without a paycheck, federal workers aren’t contributing to their retirement accounts, losing matching funds, or pay their health benefits premiums, so they’ll be billed later.

Some businesses are offering deals and discounts to federal workers and many banks are waiving late fees, but, the longer the shutdown continues, the more those businesses and banks will start to suffer financially themselves.

The effects of the shutdown reach beyond federal workers too, to include:

  • Contractors Depending on the agency for which they hold contracts, contractors may be required to work without pay or simply go unpaid. Some larger contracting companies may be using the shutdown time for training and continue providing paychecks, but others may not. Are there government contractors in your area? How is the shutdown affecting them?
  • Small businesses Small businesses such as brewers, who are subject to federal regulation must put some operations, like bottling new beers, on hold because their approval processes are shut down. Less widely reported, but easily localized, is that small business loans are currently unavailable. How are small businesses in your area affected?
  • Businesses serving federal workers If there is a large federal presence in your area, consider the businesses nearby those offices. With workers at home, they’re seeing much slower business, which affects their bottom lines, too. How are those businesses responding?
  • Nonprofits  Many nonprofits are government grantees and often work with the federal government on a reimbursement basis, but those reimbursements may not come through, which leaves nonprofits with funding gaps and can lead to decreased services. Connect with a local nonprofit network near you to see how local organizations are coping. Alternately, some nonprofits are starting to step up to offer help to unpaid federal workers.

There are bound to be many more ways the shutdown is financially affecting your community. Share your ideas in the comments!

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