President Trump’s chief economic advisor, Kevin Hassett, said federal employees currently out of work due to the government shutdown are “better off” because they did not have to use vacation days over the holidays.
Hassett told PBS’s “NewsHour” that the timing of the shutdown, which began on Dec. 22 and is now in its 21st day, allowed furloughed workers to avoid having to use vacation days.
“And then we have a shutdown, and so they can’t go to work,” he said in the interview Thursday. “So then they have the vacation, but they don’t have to use their vacation days. And then they come back, and they get their back pay.”
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) January 10, 2019
Hassett argued that many of the workers impacted probably would have taken vacation time anyway.
“A huge share of government workers were going to take vacation days, say between Christmas and New Year’s,” he said.
Nearly 800,000 federal employees and their families are doing whatever they can to save a few dollars and eke by as the partial government shutdown approaches the end of its third week with no imminent end in sight. Many are fearful weeks will go by without another payday, forcing them to take on debt or find side jobs in order to cover housing and food costs.
The last paychecks to federal workers went out between Dec. 28 and Dec. 31. Many of those workers are furloughed, while others have been deemed “essential” and are working without pay.
“We’re going to have to trim some fat and see how long we last,” said Scott Reyna, a former air traffic controller whose wife works for the Transportation Security Administration. She isn’t being paid during the shutdown, even though she continues to work.
“I’m still getting my pension, so we’ll be living on that and credit cards until they’re maxed out,” Reyna said. “After that, I have no idea.”
For Kathryn Smith, the shutdown has meant forgoing her medication for lupus in order to pay the bills and buy food.
“My husband is a disabled vet. I have lupus. I’m disabled,” said Smith, whose husband is a furloughed federal worker. “I can’t get my medications right now, because, what are we going to do? Make sure you have your groceries or make sure you have your medication. It’s going to put me in a flare, and we know, but what can we do?”
She and her husband had some savings, but they exhausted a chunk of that money recently when they had to pay veterinary bills after an unexpected emergency with their dog.
“Do you know how embarrassing it is to go to your kid and say, ‘Hey, I have to borrow the house payment?’” Smith said. “We had to go to our son. He’s being supportive as much as he can, but he has an infant in his house. We shouldn’t be borrowing money from our kids.”