Since December 22nd, the United States Federal Government has been laying down the groundwork for declaration of national emergency. While President Donald Trump continues his fight for the approval of a $5 billion wall to line the United States/Mexico border, the national government has entered what is currently the longest shutdown in American history. As a result, many federal workers are forced to continue working, but are doing so without receiving pay, missing their paychecks starting the week of the shutdown. In addition, national security, safety, and economic prosperity all face great decline as our representatives continue to receive their promised benefits.
Almost all federal employees are paid according to a biweekly cycle, one that ended on December 22, the first day of the shutdown. There are four major payroll providers that governmental agencies use. Three of these agencies have been negatively affected by the shutdown. The other payroll provider, part of the Defense Department, is funded and operating as normal. According to USA Today, over 800,000 federal employees, out of a total of 1.8 million full-time civil servants, are going without paychecks. These workers are among some of the nation’s most crucial, providing roles in protecting waterways, developing cutting-edge science and technology, ensuring food safety/inspection, investigating crime, and providing emergency care and safety to all citizens. In 2017, the average federal worker earned a salary of $69,344.22, equating to an average paycheck being made out to $2,667.
Not all federal employees are going without pay, however. Members of Congress and the President are still receiving their paychecks as normal. According to a Congressional Research Service Report:
[With regard to the President’s pay, Article II, Section I of the Constitution forbids the salary of the President to be reduced while he/she is in office, thus effectively guaranteeing the President of compensation regardless of any shutdown action.]
Congress, including both members and staff is not affected because it is funded by the appropriate bills that did pass into law last fall. According to the CRS report:
[Due to their constitutional responsibilities and a permanent appropriation for congressional pay, Members of Congress are not subject to furlough. Additionally, Article I, Section 6, of the Constitution states that Members of Congress “shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States,” and the 27th Amendment states, “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”]
The Office of Personnel Management adds that majority of political appointees “are not subject to furloughs because they are considered to be entitled to the pay of their offices solely by virtue of their status as an officer, rather than by virtue of the hours they work.”
It is crucial that our government recognizes the inequality represented by this difference in who receives pay during a shutdown and who does not. Though, a level of authority is implemented in making this decision, it is not fair that those who have no say in the issue must experience the negative consequences stimulated by such. Many of these federal workers are experiencing struggles in paying their essential bills such as rent, heat, and food. Some employees have turned to crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe to raise money to pay their bills on time.
An additional effect is being placed on the entire country during this shutdown. With many workers on strike and refusing to go to work, increased concern can be directed toward national safety and protection. One instance is airport security. Transportation Security Administration officials acknowledge that increasing numbers of security screeners are not showing up for work. Food and drug safety have also been compromised, with the FDA suspending all routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities. The economy and small businesses are experiencing harm as well. JPMorgan estimates the US economy is losing more than $1.5 billion a week due to the shutdown. Fitch Ratings warned on January 9th that if the shutdown continues much longer, the country may damage its Triple-A credit rating.
In addition, the Small Business Administration stopped processing new loans on December 22 as well. This is creating significant harm to business owners who are looking to expand their enterprise via an SBA loan. On average, the SBA delivers over 300 loans per day, equivalent to approximately $200 million worth of loans to owners of small businesses. However, currently only disaster related loans are open. With no end in sight to the shutdown, business owners are feeling the pain from not growing their businesses.
It is the duty of our elected representatives to represent the needs of the American people, as many employees fight to make the deadlines of their bills, others struggle to get loans, and the country as-a-whole faces great fear as we move forward in the longest shutdown history has seen.