Hundreds of thousands of service members and civilian workers, including military families in Jacksonville, might not see their next paycheck unless Congress passes emergency legislation to ensure America’s military continues to get paid.
Lawmakers have until the end of the day Saturday to pass a spending deal to avert the shutdown.
If the federal government shutdown lasts as long as the last one did – which was 35 days – that could mean missed mortgage and rent payments, and families struggling to afford groceries.
“They don’t care that we’re not getting paid, we still have to pay that when it’s due. Bills don’t care that we’re not getting paid, we still have to pay it when it’s due, or it affects our credit,” a local military wife said.
This military spouse didn’t want to be identified out of fear for her husband’s job at Naval Station Mayport, but she said she has some major questions for politicians in Washington.
“Are they taken into consideration? Your disagreement is affecting more than just you guys. It’s affecting a whole community of people who are fighting for your country every day,” the military wife said.
With three kids, she said the only reason they’ll be OK financially is because of her income. She said they are also trying to save for a down payment on their first home.
“Savings can only go so far. And with us trying to buy a house right now. It is really like scary,” she said.
The nonprofit Blue Star Families, said one in three military families have less than $3,000 in savings.
Dr. Tucker Omberg, assistant professor of economics at Jacksonville University, pointed to that fact to emphasize the financial impacts a shutdown would have on Jacksonville’s federal workforce.
“The biggest group of people in Jacksonville that fall into that category would be military, the Naval Air Stations, the largest employer in Jacksonville, and so there are a lot of people that would have to report to work but not be paid,” Dr. Omberg said.
Dr. Omberg said a shutdown looks increasingly likely as far-right House members have rejected any solution so far proposed.
“Unfortunately, politics comes at the expense of the welfare of a lot of ordinary people,” he said.
If a shutdown happens, the first possible missed paycheck would be on Oct. 13 for federal workers and service members.
The good news is that by law, government employees would get back pay once the shutdown ends
However, the way that back pay money comes is unpredictable.
The legislation said that employees will get their paycheck on the “earliest date possible” after the government reopens, regardless of the next regular scheduled pay date.
Service members, civilian workers, furloughed workers, and federal employees will all get back pay. But federal contractors won’t.
The problem is that backpay won’t help people pay their bills when they’re due.
“The hope is that any losses that they incurred during the shutdown would eventually be made up once the shutdown ended. But for families with very low amounts of savings, that can be difficult,” Dr. Omberg said. “Something we saw during the last shutdown was that payday loan companies actually saw huge increases in their evaluations, as people had to turn to that to make up differences during the shutdown.”