The partial shutdown of the United States government affects far more than the 800,000 federal workers who are either furloughed or working without pay. The impact of the shutdown is radiating throughout the economy, and some areas of government that remain open will soon run out of funds.
There's no clear end in sight for the shutdown, with President Donald Trump insisting he won't sign any spending bill that does not include funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The Democrat-controlled House, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, has been equally resolute, saying it won't pass funding bills that include money for a border wall.
For the American people, the cost of this impasse is enormous -- and growing by the day. The ongoing shutdown could cost as much as $13 billion a month, or $430 million a day, according to new analysis by The Ascent, a Motley Fool company. That figure includes unpaid wages for government workers and federal income assistance programs that may soon run dry.
"I was definitely surprised by how large the figure was," said The Ascent research analyst Kamran Rosen in a statement. "Our estimates are looking at just two sources of economic activity, not even including lots of smaller agencies and offices that are fully or partially shut down."
Here comes the pain?
If you're not a federal worker, the impact of the shutdown may not be obvious to you. That will change if the shutdown continues.
The next major hit will come in February when the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) runs out of money. SNAP, which falls under the Department of Agriculture, provides food assistance for low- and no-income Americans (mostly families with children). If it can't meet its obligations in February, many of the 40 million people it serves will go hungry.
"For SNAP benefits alone we're looking at a loss of over $5 billion a month nationwide," Rosen said.
In addition to the nation's poor, small-business owners are likely to be hit hard by a prolonged shutdown. If Americans who count on federal aid don't receive it, consumption will decrease nationwide. The housing market could also feel the pain: Unpaid federal workers may miss mortgage payments, and the processing of new loans through the Federal Housing Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs will likely slow down.
"I think while many Americans understand on a conceptual basis the government shutdown will affect them, the size of the economic impact has gone largely undiscussed," Rosen said.
What can you do?
Whether you are directly or indirectly affected by the shutdown, there's very little you can do. If you're experiencing a loss in income because of the shutdown, you should certainly communicate with anyone you have a financial relationship with. Mortgage and credit card companies prefer proactive customers. You can generally make a better deal or stave off negative consequences if you communicate instead of ignoring the problem.
If you are unaffected by the shutdown, it's important to be sympathetic toward those that are. Having $13 billion taken out of the economy in this fashion will tax non-profits trying to help, and many were struggling before this latest blow.
Consider how you might help your neighbors. That could mean shopping in an area that normally caters to now-furloughed workers or donating to area charities. It could be as simple as having someone over for dinner to show your support during what will be a tough time for far more Americans than the 800,000 federal workers directly impacted.
It's also important -- even if it feels futile -- to let your representatives in Congress know how you feel and how you're being affected. You can find the contact information of the lawmakers who represent you on websites such as NationalPriorities.org. While one person may not change anything, the voices of hundreds of thousands of voters will be heard.
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