Government shutdown helped us see America’s shrinking middle class

(from PBS Newshour)

BY: Nina Joung

The 35-day-long government shutdown is finally over, but it shed light on an issue that persists: the financial instability of federal workers and the America middle class.

Many government employees, their families and the government programs that they rely on were shaken by the shutdown. People found themselves picking up food from the very food banks they’ve donated to while some of the children of furloughed employees are taking on some financial responsibility. For families who have typically managed to stay afloat, the government shutdown revealed that many have been treading water.

This is your Chasing the Dream News Update on the government shutdown’s far-reaching effects on families’ financial stability

1) Shutdown’s lost pay, dwindling business send more people to D.C. food banks | PBS

In D.C., both the government workers and businesses in the area felt the effects of the shutdown. Small businesses are one of the many industries feeling the ripple effects of the government shutdown as foot traffic slows down in the city. Federal contractors, one of the hardest-hit groups by the government shutdown, will not get back their lost wages for the duration of the shutdown. And yet, some federal workers felt guilty utilizing the D.C.’s food banks that they desperately needed.

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

Furloughed federal workers revealed that many of us are just one paycheck away from a financial crisis. Workers who shared their #ShutdownStories on social media described having to use food banks for the first time and even losing their home.

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.

3) What an ongoing government shutdown could mean for school lunches | CNN

While the US Department of Agriculture’s reduced and free lunch programs had funding through the end of March, many school districts had to prepare for the worst case scenario of the shutdown continuing and funds running out. Some schools had to consider whether to “stop serving meals to hungry kids or make the meals worse or smaller or less nutritious”, though these lunch programs may be the only time students get a nutritious meal in their day.

The National School Lunch Program provides lunches to more than 29 million children nationwide every school day.

4) From Federal Worker to Uber Driver: Odd Jobs to Make Ends Meet in the Shutdown | New York Times

Having missed a paycheck, some furloughed workers had to trade their office jobs for a side hustle. One federal-worker-now-uber-driver who had always been able to provide for her two daughters as a single mother found herself setting up a GoFundMe page alongside more than 2,000 other federal workers, according to The New York Times. The transition from having a stable income to relying on the gig economy doesn’t come without financial, physical and emotional costs.

“It gets me out of the house. It gives me a routine,” Angela Kelley said about her being an Uber driver. “I need to function. I can’t just sit and wallow in my bed all day. I’ve got to get up.”