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At the time of this writing, the longest government shutdown in U.S. history ended after 35 days, lasting from Dec. 22, 2018 to Jan. 25, 2019. While the shutdown has ended, there’s always the potential for another as political unrest remains.
Regardless of what the future holds, many government agencies have been affected, causing federal employees to either be furloughed or work without pay. In addition, national parks were forced to close, and affordable housing funding has come to a halt, among other effects that will continue to be felt during the course of the year.
Government Shutdown Impact
- More than 800,000 federal employees were affected by the shutdown. Over 420,000 were required to work without pay (e.g., prison guards, TSA employees, border patrol, etc.) and more than 380,000 workers were furloughed.
- Almost $200 million in small business loans were blocked each day as the Small Business Administration (SBA) halted its loan program.
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) only had a few essential workers to oversee public housing while making voucher payments for low-income families. Ninety-five percent of HUD employees were furloughed.
- Over 1,000 affordable housing contracts expired since the shutdown, representing 5 percent of project-based rental assistance, which subsidizes rent and utilities for 1.2 million low-income families.
As federal workers went 35 days furloughed or working without pay, they missed paychecks that they relied on to pay for their food, rent and other bills. When the shutdown temporarily ended, President Trump signed a bill guaranteeing back pay for the hundreds of thousands of federal employees who were furloughed. However, another shutdown will cause these employees to miss more paychecks.
When these workers are unable to pay their rent, this affects their landlords who depend on rent payments, and they might face eviction. At the same time, homeowners risk foreclosure when they miss their mortgage payments.
Democrats introduced legislation titled the “Federal Employee Civil Relief Act” that would protect workers and their families from foreclosures, evictions and loan defaults during the course of the government shutdown and for 30 days following. While still in the introduction phase, if passed, it will also protect workers from having their car or property repossessed, falling behind on bills and student loan payments, and losing their insurance due to missing premiums.
Small businesses also suffered from the shutdown as the SBA halted its 7(a) loan program for working capital and 504 loans for commercial properties—capital that these businesses rely on to operate and pay their employees—during the course of the shutdown. As the SBA manages nearly 200 7(a) loans and 120 SBA 504 loans per day, this amounted to $200 million worth of loans for small and mid-size businesses that were not being distributed each day.
Professionals in the housing industry should know how these effects will likely affect them and their clients today and after the end of any subsequent shutdown.