800,000 Unpaid Federal Workers Owe $400M in Mortgage and Rent This Month; 78% of US Workers Live Paycheck to Paycheck

Shutdown Crisis: Unpaid Government Workers Owe $400M in Mortgage and Rent This Month

For many federal workers, keeping a roof over their heads got a lot harder in January thanks to the partial government shutdown that is approaching its third week.

Altogether, unpaid federal workers — including roughly 380,000 furloughed employees and 420,000 people working without pay — owe around $438 million in mortgage and rent payments in January, according to a report published Tuesday by real-estate firm Zillow ZG, +3.43% That breaks down into $189 million in monthly rent payments and $249 in mortgage payments.

‘Like Americans in the private sector, many federal employees rely on each and every paycheck to cover critical expenses, including housing.’

—Zillow senior economist Aaron Terrazas
“Like Americans in the private sector, many federal employees rely on each and every paycheck to cover critical expenses, including housing,” Zillow senior economist Aaron Terrazas said in the report. “In many parts of the country, housing affordability is already stretched and a single missed payment can begin the long process toward foreclosure or eviction — which has long-term impacts on an individual’s finances and long-term economic prospects.”

The government shutdown spotlights a bigger issue: 78% of US workers live paycheck to paycheck

The partial government shutdown, which began Dec. 22, has now stretched well into the new year. President Donald Trump said Friday that it would continue for “months or even years” until he receives the requested $5 billion in funding for a border wall.

The shutdown has left approximately 800,000 federal workers in financial limbo. Around 420,000 “essential” employees are working without pay, while another 380,000 have been ordered to stay home, according to calculations provided to CNBC by Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University.

In some cases, the furloughs have forced government employees to tap into their savings, rely on credit cards or crowdsource funds to make ends meet.

Government workers are far from alone in feeling stressed about not getting paid. Nearly 80 percent of American workers (78 percent) say they’re living paycheck to paycheck, according to a 2017 report by employment website CareerBuilder. Women are particularly vulnerable: 81 percent of them report living paycheck to paycheck, compared with 75 percent of men.

Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, tells CNBC that the group has heard from hundreds of frantic federal employees. “They’re scared,” he says. “They don’t know how they’re going to put food on the table.”

Various #ShutdownStories making that point have gone viral on Twitter.

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