5 Ways to Help Furloughed Workers

It’s official: This is the longest shutdown in history, and government workers are feeling the pain, whether they’re direct federal employees or contractors. Missed paychecks for people who often live paycheck to paycheck means hunger, missed bills and taking a hit on your credit.

Many Americans are wondering how they can help, and I’ve rounded up a few options.

First, know who you’re talking about: Not all government agencies are affected by the shutdown. Of those that are, some people are deemed “essential” and expected to report for work — even though they are not being paid. Nonessential employees, meanwhile, are unpaid and often can’t take outside work without authorization — which they can’t get because their agencies are closed. Contract workers, from the people to clean the buildings to IT, aren’t getting paid, and won’t get back pay.

1. Call Your Reps

Mitch McConnell seems to think he can wait this one out, insisting that he won’t even consider the House bills to reopen the government because the president won’t sign. Contact your representatives to make it very clear you have no patience for this, and to remind them that a veto override is an option. If the president doesn’t want to sign a bill that is clearly the will of both Congress and the people, it’s Congress’ responsibility to override him.

Stress that it’s also unacceptable to sandwich funding for the wall into any bills to reopen the government — and that Trump’s scheme to take disaster funds and use them to pay for it is a no-go too.

2. Help Out With a Meal

Food banks and pop-up food pantries are reporting large numbers of furloughed workers, especially in areas with a high concentration of government jobs. Consider donating cash to a food bank or pantry to help them stock up. Or, as an alternative, get in touch with local schools to talk about paying off school lunch debt; some service clubs are pooling resources to do so.

3. Assist With Child Care

Some federal employees are stressed out about child care: They need to pay to retain spots in child care facilities — and, in some cases, those facilities are closed but still expecting fees. In other words, parents must find alternate child care arrangements — and pay for child care twice.

If you send kids to a facility with federal employees, consider reaching out to the board to ask about temporarily waiving or reducing fees, and banding together with other parents to subsidize fees for those who aren’t getting paychecks right now.

4. Connect With Local Groups

A variety of entities in your community may already be stepping up: Churches, service organizations, and other groups are very familiar with swinging in to help. You can donate money, time or supplies to such groups to help them stretch their resources.

This includes groups offering counseling to help people connect with services and supports that may benefit them during the shutdown, from temporary suspension of loan payments to assistance with utility costs. If you have skills navigating bureaucracy, you might want to consider volunteering your services.

5. Patronize Local Businesses

If you live in an area with a high concentration of federal employees, local businesses may be hurting. Workers are no longer fanning out at lunch time to pick up sandwiches, stopping by the hardware store to grab lightbulbs or anything else. Consider making an effort to spend money locally to help those businesses stay afloat, especially if they are among those who are offering federal workers free or discounted products and services.

Photo credit: AFGE/Creative Commons


Sophie A
Sarah A2 months ago

thanks very much

Caitlin L
Past Member 2 months ago

Thank you

Olivia M
Past Member 3 months ago

Thanks for posting

Beryl L
Beryl L3 months ago

Thank you.

Shae Lee
Shae Lee3 months ago

Thank you for sharing

Leo C
Leo C3 months ago

Thank you for posting!

Marge F
Marge F3 months ago

Thank you for posting this informative article.

Peggy B
Peggy B3 months ago


Peggy B
Peggy B3 months ago

Edward Vaughn .... For some families, it is not that easy.

Anne M
Anne M3 months ago

No. 2 - YES, YES,, give to your local food bank ,, because eventually, if this keeps going the way it is,, everyone will end up going to the food bank, to get something to eat... - Please give generously, they're going to NEED it...