President Donald Trump wants US$5.7 billion to fund a border wall to keep out undocumented immigrants and “criminals.” Democrats in Congress say the wall is a waste of money that wouldn’t solve any of America’s actual immigration programs.
Caught between the two sides are about 800,000 federal workers whose agencies are affected by the partial government shutdown. And although it started about three weeks ago, Jan. 11 marks a significant milestone: It’s the first time affected workers won’t get their paychecks.
The federal workforce
Overall, the federal government directly employs over 2 million people.
Most of them work for departments such as Defense, Education and Labor that remain open because Congress passed spending bills fully funding what they do. About a quarter of the federal government – including the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Agriculture – has no new funding, leaving 800,000 workers in the lurch.
And on Jan. 11, they’ll feel the impact of that lost pay.
Hand to mouth
So what’s the big deal if these workers don’t get a single paycheck?
No matter which figure is right, it means that many American families cannot financially survive for long without earning money. And a significant share don’t have enough money to absorb even a $1,000 emergency expense – let alone a prolonged period of time without a paycheck.