A majority of the approximate 800,000 employees furloughed or forced to work without pay due to the most recent shutdown of the federal government that began December 27, 2018, do not reside in Washington, D.C., instead, most are scattered across the country in communities like those in the inland region and elsewhere in California.
There are thousands of federal employees in various assignments spread across the state and no doubt dozens, if not hundreds, are impacted by the current shutdown. A shutdown that appears by most estimates may be set to drag on for several more days, possibly weeks.
The shutdown not only impacts federal workers, it has also placed economic stress on downstream businesses. This not only includes federal contractors and their employees who will never recover lost wages, but also local governments who may need to close gaps in services to vulnerable populations who might be impacted by the interruption in programs usually funded by the federal government.
For example, there are growing concerns some of the nation’s key social programs like the Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, could be disrupted—programs like WIC and others depend on federal aid to the states.
California has a history of being counted among states with the highest WIC coverage rate in the nation. Nearly 1.4 million California women, infants and children were enrolled in fiscal year 2014—nearly 80 percent were children. This included about 30 percent of young children in San Bernardino County and 33.1 percent of young children in Riverside County and those percentages have remained fairly consistent.
Other concerns related to a protracted shut-down is the potential impact it can have on food assistance programs that depend on surplus agricultural products provided by the Department of Agriculture. This includes provisions for food banks and other supplemental food programs that support low income households, including those with seniors.
Those who believe the federal shut-down will not impact the inland region should consider—nearly one in three inland area households live in poverty. Many of these households are food insecure and depend on these federal food assistance programs to survive.
Last week, the federal government seemed to signal a long shut down was expected when the Office of Personnel Management extended unprecedented counselling to federal employees. It did so by posting a link to a memorandum of instructions which provides steps federal employees can follow to help them manage creditors during an extended closure of the government—including how to barter with landlords, etc. The memo includes sample letters to creditors.
More information about how to negotiate with creditors during the shutdown (including a link to the memorandum mentioned here) is available online at https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/furlough-guidance/#url=Overview.