OGDEN (ABC4 News) – Nearly six months after the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, a study conducted by researchers at Weber State University shows federal employees are still being impacted by it.
Findings indicated that 36 percent of surveyed federal government employees received help from charities, friends or family and 30 percent went to a food pantry or received a free meal from a local restaurant.
“I just wish that congress would realize that shutting the government down affects a lot of people,” one respondent said. “All we want to do is go to work, do our job and get paid like everyone else.”
Out of those who pulled loans or used credit cards to help make ends meet, 71 percent said they would need three or more months to repay the debts. Sixty percent applied to skip or defer payment for a credit card, mortgage or loan during the shutdown and 35 percent missed a rent or mortgage payment.
Following the shutdown, 65 percent expressed they are very or somewhat concerned about finances. Forty-six percent reported that morale at work is low and 42 percent intend to retire early or make a career change.
In addition to finances, survey participants also reported their mental well-being was affected – 72 percent of respondents reported a high level of anxiety or stress during the shutdown, but less than 4 percent reported receiving help for their mental health.
Non-profit organizations were also surveyed and reported seeing either the same demand or little increase in demand for their services during the shutdown. Despite this small change in demand, 50 percent reported that the shutdown impacted their ability to provide services. Out of the nonprofits who rely on federal funding, 44 percent stated that the interruption of federal support impacted provision of services.
“We decreased services for clients and stopped all non-emergency funding, reduced the number of clients able to access the emergency shelter and prepared for a reduction in staff,” one nonprofit responded.
Businesses were also impacted with 57 percent reporting a revenue decrease and 14 percent experiencing a decrease of more than 30 percent. However, 78 percent of businesses do not expect enduring effects from the shutdown.
Researchers said questions remain regarding why furloughed employees had such low rates of savings and why few employees were able to receive mental health support.
“One of the limitations of the study is that we did not reach a representative sample so that means where this information is very interesting and indicative of how the government shutdown impacted the whole community, we cannot generalize the data out to whole furloughed community,” said Katharine French-Fuller, director of WSU Center for Community Engaged Learning – Research Extension.
French-Fuller said understanding the shutdown’s impact will allow them to determine how to better prepare in the case of a similar situation in the future, how employees working without pay can receive services, and how the community can meet the mental health needs of those affected. They will be conducting focus groups in the fall to further their research. If you are a federal employee who would like to participate, contact email@example.com
To view a full copy of the report, click here.