Well considering a shutdown takes quite some time, it means there are lots of people with various skillsets who are literary thumbling thumbs. Just to wait till they can get their job back.

Since not everyone has the fiscal situation where they can "survive" this long, in effect it means that everyone is "unemployed" and "fired". They will have to look for a new job.

Yet at the same time they aren't in a great position to look for a job. (Typically they work at the government since their skillset so happens to lead to a governmental job).

So what backbone does the US have to pay for those people? Since even in the process of a shutdown food still has to be bought, and bills still have to be paid.

Is there some "reserve" these people can fall back on? Or can they request credit and ask the government to pay any interest since they would've gotten the job (and thus money) normally?

  • Don't forget government contractors as there is less in place to ensure that they get back pay.
    – Joe W
    Jan 22, 2019 at 21:42
  • They could always quit and find another job. Jan 23, 2019 at 3:50
  • @JonathanReez That's easier said than done. It's also very much against accepted behaviour to just "fire on the spot" while never having done something potentially bad.
    – paul23
    Jan 23, 2019 at 3:51
  • I'm just saying that waiting for the shutdown to end is not their only option. Jan 23, 2019 at 4:53

1 Answer 1


While this is not guaranteed, in past shutdowns, government employees have received back pay for the duration of the shutdown, whether they were furloughed or forced to work. (Contractors, generally not.)

In the meantime, unfortunately, they are on their own. There are several media reports of government employees draining their savings, signing up for food banks, and even crowd funding to cover their bills. Some of those who have been ordered to work have even reached the point that they literally can't afford to go in (Reuters).

Whether there is any additional recourse, beyond back pay, is as yet unclear. This is the first time a government shutdown has lasted for longer than a month, and it will be up to Congress to decide whether to allocate money to compensate people for any consequential losses (such as interest on credit).

  • Is that normal that it is "up to the congress" to decide on fundamental human rights like food en a roof? I've heard reports of people being unable to pay for their home rent....
    – paul23
    Jan 22, 2019 at 20:54
  • It's worth remembering that this entire situation is not "usual", and I hope that it never becomes so. But unfortunately, the decision on whether or not to cover consequential loss ultimately comes down to Congress.
    – Joe C
    Jan 22, 2019 at 21:07
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    I guess the direct follow up question then boils down to "can companies do this too? Are companies allowed to give employees leave without pay when work has suddenly dried up?" - Without going through the lengthy process of firing which takes several months.
    – paul23
    Jan 22, 2019 at 21:25
  • 1
    That might be a good question for Law Stack Exchange, though you should, of course, take their tour and visit their help center before doing so.
    – Joe C
    Jan 22, 2019 at 21:38
  • 1
    @paul23 Companies don't do this in a great majority of cases (I can only think of disciplinary actions of leave without pay). The point is that a layoff makes the person eligible for unemployment. I think that would be preferable. Lay them off and then hire them back with back pay but make them eligible for unemployment meanwhile. 800,000 people sounds like a lot but the unemployment insurance costs is a drop in the bucket compared to the federal budget Jan 23, 2019 at 13:07

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