We are nearly a month into the partial government shutdown, and there is still no sign of a resolution on the horizon. This has meant that more than 800,000 federal employees—as well as many other government contractors—have been furloughed or are working without pay.
If you’re lucky enough to have a nest egg saved away for a rainy day, going a month without pay may not seem very onerous. But for the majority of Americans who don’t have even $400 in emergency savings, work without pay is a devastating hypothetical.
Faced with concerns about being unable to pay their mortgage or buy groceries, employees will be less likely to perform as well on the job. The extreme stress of their situation may lead to health issues. In addition, they will likely be more distracted on the job—which can lead to increased accidents or mistakes in their work.
All of the federal employees who are continuing to work without pay through the shutdown have been deemed essential—since their work is critical for national security. From a public safety perspective, have such important work carried out by employees who are preoccupied with how they’ll survive is a frightening prospect.
The financial stress of federal employees also makes them more likely to suffer injury outside of work. Financial insecurity is an all-consuming problem—impacting every activity in one’s life. Federal employees with fiscal stress may experience higher levels of distraction behind the wheel, leading to higher rates of accidents. A recent study affirmed this link, finding that truck drivers with financial stress were more likely to be involved in an accident.
At first glance, it may seem as though the government shutdown only impacts a small fraction of the population. However, its ripple effect actually is far reaching.