The harsher reality of the shutdown
On Jan. 25, the longest government shutdown in U.S. history came to an end after 35 days. Although the furloughed federal employees have now returned to work, that status is said to be perhaps only temporary, pending an accord between the president and representatives in Congress. Let’s hope that warning is only an empty threat. It should never happen again.
Many of those workers who reside here on Long Island, where the cost of living is considered one of the highest in the country, were very concerned. That’s especially true for those who live paycheck to paycheck, left to wonder how to pay for living expenses including food. Some sought help at local food pantries. Last week, both Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran joined forces and enlisted the help of former congressman Steve Israel to address those concerns. They’re seeking ways to cut through red tape so that in the future, those who find themselves unemployed will be able to receive help a lot quicker. That’s great, but they’re missing the whole picture. Those workers were not prepared to handle a fiscal emergency and that’s a reality that also needs to be addressed.
According to multimedia financial services website, including Investipedia (www.investapedia.com), in order to be prepared for an emergency one must keep at least six months of living expenses in the bank. They say for a metropolitan area similar to our tri-state region, that number should be around $23,000. But how many can actually afford to keep that amount liquid?
The average American is said to have less than $4,000 in savings, while 57 percent of U.S. adults have less than $1,000 saved. A recent study done by GoBankingRates (www.gobankingrates.com) found that one out of three Americans have absolutely no money in savings, a situation they refer to as “a ticking bomb.” Of the remaining group, 23 percent have less that $10,000 saved, with women in the higher percentages of that group since in many places they continue to make .74 cents to every dollar earned by their male counterparts.
Not having an emergency fund means there’s nothing to fall back on when the unexpected happens, such as a major repair to a home or car, a debilitating illness or what the nearly 800,000 Americans that were not paid over the past month experienced. Building a nest egg for emergencies or even retirement is not a possibility for many Americans, and that is one of the terrible truths in this country today. The high cost of living, ever increasing taxes, less deductions, school loans and credit card debt cause families to struggle for survival even when gainfully employed. It’s time for our local elected officials to begin to seriously tackle that reality.
And as for our federal representatives, they need to find a middle ground in their own negotiations without punishing hardworking people by using them as a bargaining chip during the debate.
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