Federal Workers Are About to Miss Their First Paycheck

A sign is displayed on a government building in Washington, D.C., that’s closed because of the government shutdown, on December 22nd, 2018.

As the partial shutdown of the federal government drags on, an important milestone for federal workers looms large: This week, approximately 800,000 federal workers will miss their first paycheck. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a bipartisan D.C.-based think tank, about 380,000 of those workers are currently furloughed (i.e. not working)—but about 420,000 workers are considered “essential” and are legally required to report to work without being paid.

If past government shutdowns are any indication, federal employees will ultimately receive backpay. But that knowledge is of little use to federal employees who must pay for housing, food, and childcare in the immediate term. As stories about the shutdown’s effects on the federal workforce stream in, it’s worth pausing to consider just who these federal workers are, and how vulnerable many are to a missed paycheck.

While it’s difficult to determine the precise demographics of the affected workers, there is data available on who works at some of the government agencies most affected. For example, the Department of Homeland Security—which includes the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the Secret Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Coast Guard—is the agency most affected by the shutdown, with over 200,000 affected workers, according to an analysis from the Washington Post.

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