John DiTroia has been guiding planes through Tampa International Airport since the government shutdown began, even though he’s not getting paid and his three- year-old son was recently diagnosed with leukemia.
DiTroia, who had taken leave to be with the boy, raced back to work on Oct. 2 when he was told he might not qualify for back pay if he wasn’t at his station. His wife has already used all her paid leave to deal with family issues.
“I’m used to having two incomes,” DiTroia, 33, said. “Right now, I have zero. I’m watching every dollar that goes out.”
Today, DiTroia will be among federal workers who’ll get their last paycheck -- a partial one -- until the funding impasse between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans that began on Oct. 1 is resolved.
For the hundreds of thousands of workers serving the U.S. government, the nation’s largest employer, payday will provide an economic reminder of Washington’s political paralysis. The average federal employee earned an annual salary of $76,353 in 2012, and the lost income is exerting a drag on the economy as well as forcing employees who live paycheck-to-paycheck to figure out how to cover their bills until the shutdown ends.
“They’re holding us all hostage,” said Rosamond Harris, a U.S. Census Bureau worker, referring to Congress. “It’s unconscionable how people can sit there and play with other people’s lives.”
The shutdown and failure to pay workers is draining an average of $160 million a day from the $15.7 trillion economy, according to analysts in Lexington, Massachusetts, for IHS Inc., a global market-research firm.
The impact is particularly evident in the Washington metropolitan area. Stephen Fuller, the director of the Center for Regional Analysis at Fairfax, Virginia-based George Mason University, estimates that the loss of pay is enough to cut about $50 million a day from consumer spending in the region.
“It’s now really going to be hitting home,” said Daraius Irani, the executive director of the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University outside Baltimore, Maryland. “The longer this goes on, the worse it is going to be for workers -- and for our economy.”