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Federal Workers Wary of Possible Second Government Shutdown

BY SOPHIA BALKOVSKI

Staff Writer

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) worker Tom Corcoran at Second Harvest Food Bank’s pop-up location at John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Orange County. About 90% of SNA TSA workers were in need of help due to not receiving paychecks due to the government shutdown. (Courtesy of Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register)

Americans may face the possibility of another government shutdown if a compromise on border security is not reached by February 15. While bipartisan congressmen work to pass a budget compromise to avert another shutdown, federal workers anticipate the loss of future paychecks.

According to economics teacher Nora Seager, “40-45% of Americans do not have savings above $500 in the bank,” because many live paycheck-to-paycheck and are not able to put aside savings. In the event of a similar future crisis, many federal workers are trying to save as much as possible.

“I’m going to save every dollar I can until a permanent budget is passed,” Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employee Jazz Sexton said in Time Magazine.

The shutdown posed major setbacks for many federal government workers, including those employed at national museums, national parks, the IRS, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The 35-day long shutdown, which ended on January 25, was prolonged due to Congress’ and President Trump’s inability to negotiate a budget for a Mexican border wall. As a result, 25% of government institutions were shut down and more than 800,000 government workers were either furloughed or asked to work without pay.

While all federal workers received back pay once the government reopened, a potential second shutdown may lead to major setbacks for these workers.

According to 45th District Representative Katie Porter, some federal workers were forced to take out a loan on their 401k, their retirement savings loan, to pay their bills.

“A typical [TSA] worker makes $40,000[a year], even if they work 10 or 15 years. For many of these people, given the high cost of living, the missing paycheck really hurt them,” Porter said in an exclusive interview with Sword and Shield.

The shutdown also affected non-federal workers in Orange County. For example, the IRS was heavily impacted during the shutdown, with only 12% of workers remaining on the job.

“We’re likely going to see some delays in tax processing…keeping people from getting their hard-earned tax dollars,” Porter said. “People count on their tax refunds; it’s their money that they overpaid the government. People need help with their taxes, especially under this new Trump tax plan.”

The 800,000 workers who were without pay left a huge impact on the economy. Because they were paid less, they spent less, which caused other people to lose revenue as well. It is estimated that these decreases in spending costed millions of dollars from the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“For 2018, most of the quarters were close to 3% growth. That’s what [experts] were planning on,” Seager said. “They think that 3 weeks in January could mean that the entire first economic quarter will show 0% economic growth.”    

These delays in processing are likely to cause a ripple effect through numerous government institutions.

“It’s not just like you flip a switch and everything comes back. There are deadlines that were missed, there were people who needed things by a certain date, and those things back up, and now…they’re going to have to work really hard to try to catch up on the back logged-work to try to make sure that people are getting timely help,”  Porter said.

During the first shutdown, the Second Harvest Food Bank, a non-profit organization aimed at ending hunger in Orange County, opened a new section of their establishment at the John Wayne Airport in an effort to provide aid for federal workers in the area. In the event of another shutdown starting February 15, the community will likely use its resources to help out federal workers.

“Since we opened the pantry on January 21, we’ve have 635 visits and provided food for 1402 adults, 516 children, and 138 seniors,” Marketing & Public Relations Coordinator Menna Eshete said. “The TSA recently told us that our help is no longer needed, but we are still helping other federal workers in other locations.”

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