It's Day 16 of the Federal Government shutdown and over 800,000 government employees are starting their second week without a paycheck. Government workers like the majority of us often live from paycheck to paycheck and have less than $1000 tucked away in emergency funds. Don't take Mr. EH's word for how Federal employees are doing check out this story in the Washington Post.
Many furloughed workers are not just sitting at home waiting for the shutdown to end. They are trying make ends meet with side hustles and part-time jobs. Kudos to them.
CNBC also run a story about short term money sources for furloughed workers with suggestions such as interest free loans from Federal Credit Unions and tapping their home equity. Additionally the story highlights less desirable options like withdrawals from retirement accounts or credit card cash advances.
While there is some comfort in knowing that in past Congress retroactively provided backpay to the furloughed workers it does not help them in the short term. Of course this retroactive backpay applies only to federal employees and not contract workers. Both federal workers and contract employees on furlough can apply for unemployment benefits (a state not federal program) but that can generally take two to three weeks to the first check to be issued. Also the maximum amount paid is $450 per week.
The takeaway from all this is that everyone needs an emergency fund. If the paycheck does not stretch to allow funding of an emergency fund then the solution is to get out there and hustle. Take your pick from any of the hundreds of side hustles available to us. Be it Uber, Rover, Airbnb, TaskRabbit or PostMates. The important thing is to hustle and build that cushion in advance.
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