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Government shutdown hits African Americans the hardest

Stacy M. Brown,NNPA Newswire Correspondent |

With over 50,000 federal employees, the fourth congressional district in Maryland represents the fifth largest number of workers, and Maryland likely counts as the third-largest impacted state by the government shutdown, according to Democratic Rep. Anthony Brown.

“So, I’m hearing about this, like my colleagues, each and every day from my constituents while this shutdown is set to become the longest in the nation’s history,” said Brown, who joined Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-Calif.); Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), on a media conference call on Friday, Jan. 11.

The CBC members said they were calling for an end to the shutdown so that workers can again begin to collect their paychecks and critical government services can resume.

During the call, the members discussed the debilitating effects of the ongoing government shutdown as thousands of federal employees are unable to collect their paychecks.

They also denounced President Donald Trump’s threat to declare a state of emergency if Congress refuses to fund a border wall – one in which the president claimed during his campaign that Mexico would pay for.

“This shutdown and the whole issue of the wall is a fake crisis,” Bass said.

“At the end of the day, even if he had all the money, it would still take eminent domain to build his wall. That process will take years. This is further evidence that this is a fake crisis and, in my opinion, just an attempt to change our attention away from the numerous impending investigations,” she said.

Thompson, the chair of the Homeland Security Committee, said the shutdown is taking its toll on workers and government operations.

“It is a challenge for us in Homeland Security. We have 80 percent of the workforce not being paid. That goes from TSA employees in airports, to the Coast Guard, to the Secret Service, to Custom Border Protection individuals, and all of those individuals who have sworn to keep us safe, are not being paid,” Thompson said.

“That’s not fair and we are compromising our national security strategy by reducing the morale of the employees.”

On Saturday, Jan. 12, the shutdown entered its 22nd day, a record.

NBC News and other outlets estimate that 800,000 federal employees are furloughed or working without pay because Trump and Congress cannot reach a deal to reopen the government.

They are at an impasse over $5.7 billion for construction of a wall along the southern border.

The number of furloughed employees does not include federal contractors, according to a report by NBC News.

It’s unclear how many contract or grant employees are affected by the shutdown — or even how many there are in total — but a Volcker Alliance report estimated that nearly 5.3 million worked as contractors in 2015.

Unlike furloughed federal employees, who have received assurances that they will be paid once the shutdown ends, contractors are not owed back pay and that has left them in an even murkier economic position.

Further, communities of color are probably the hardest hit by the shutdown, said Lee, who co-chairs the Steering and Policy Committee and serves on the House Committee on Appropriations.

Black people comprise 12 percent of the country’s population but are 18 percent of the federal workforce, according to the Partnership for Public Service.

“We know that communities of color are disproportionately affected by this irresponsible Trump government shutdown. And today is especially painful for so many workers because it should be payday,” Lee said.

Without these paychecks, many federal workers are hanging on by a thread, she said.

“I know there are hundreds of thousands of families out there who are grappling with the anxiety, and really fear, of not being able to pay the bills as this shutdown drags on.

“Let’s be very clear: what’s happening here is President Trump is holding this government hostage and holding people hostage in order to get his useless, wasteful wall,” Lee said.

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