The nation is in the midst of the longest running government shutdown in U.S. history. According to The Business Insider, 800,000 federal employees and millions of government contractors are currently going without pay.
Almost a month in, the damage is not only taking place on the national economy, but it is also affecting many African-American federal workers and their families. NPR’s All Things Considered host, Ari Shapiro spoke with Guardian reporter, Jamiles Lartey, about how the shutdown has disproportionately affected Blacks, who make up more of the federal workforce than any other population.
In the NPR interview, Shapiro stated that for generations, government work has provided good wages and job security for African-Americans who may have faced discrimination in the private sector. Black families not only have a fraction of the wealth of white family, but also since many of them live paycheck to paycheck, are being severely affected by the shutdown.
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“The profound racial wealth gap in the U.S. makes it far more difficult for the average Black American to sustain a long period without a paycheck as compared with a white American,” Lartey said.
“We don’t have numbers of, you know, Black federal workers’ wealth versus white federal workers’ wealth. It’s probably much closer than the broader disparity,” he added. “But, you know, overall Black Americans are less likely to have friends, family, networks, access to credit. You know, you name it. Things that will help you survive a period without a paycheck, they’re less likely to have it.”
Lartey also noted that there’s no precedent for government contractors to receive back pay when the shutdown ends. Thus, no one fully knows if they will receive income for the weeks that they were furloughed. And since Black-owned firms make up 11.7 percent of registered federal contractors, by and large, these minority companies are going to be hit harder than others.
The Business Insider also notes that the shutdown is not the only financial woe that America has to worry about. The U.S. is also dealing with the negative effect of the US-China trade war, stock prices falling, a slowdown in international growth, and conflict about the debt ceiling.
Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s CEO, said the shutdown was a serious problem for the U.S. economy and cited research that found U.S. GDP growth could go to zero if the shutdown continued.
Financial services company, Standard & Poor’s, also stated the cost of the shutdown could soon equal Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, reported by Vox.
“The longer this shutdown drags on, the more collateral damage the economy will suffer,” analysts at Standard & Poor’s reported.