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“Pouring Salt Into the Wound” Amid Shutdown, Trump Signs Executive Order Freezing Pay of Nearly 2 Million Federal Workers

Public employees and government contractors are increasingly worried about being able to make rent and pay their bills.

With hundreds of thousands of federal employees currently furloughed or working without pay due to the ongoing government shutdown, President Donald Trump delivered another blow to struggling workers on Friday by signing an executive order that will freeze the pay of around two million public employees in 2019.

“This is just pouring salt into the wound,” declared Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents around 100,000 federal workers. “It is shocking that federal employees are taking yet another financial hit. As if missed paychecks and working without pay were not enough, now they have been told that they don’t even deserve a modest pay increase.”

Trump’s executive order—which largely flew under the radar of national news coverage—makes official his announcement earlier this year that he would cancel a scheduled 2.1 percent pay raise for 1.8 million non-military federal workers.

As justification for the widely denounced move, Trump cited the need to “put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course.”

The president’s sudden concern for the budget deficit came just months after he signed into law $1.5 trillion in tax cuts, which have disproportionately flowed to wealthy Americans and large corporations.

“President Trump pushed through a tax scam that gave unprecedented handouts to billionaires and corporations—but believes it’s too expensive to pay hardworking federal workers a reasonable wage,” wrote Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) following Trump’s August announcement.

The president’s move to freeze the pay of millions of federal workers comes as hundreds of thousands of public employees and government contractors are increasingly worried about being able to make rent and pay their bills, as the partial shutdown heads into January with no agreement in sight.

“We’re sort of being held hostage in the middle, and we have families and obligations,” Dena Ivey, a furloughed probate specialist in the Anchorage office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, told the New York Times on Friday. “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make rent. I’m basically living on credit now.”

The Trump administration sparked outrage on Thursday by suggesting that federal workers could do odd jobs for their landlords such as “painting” or “carpentry” to help cover rent as the shutdown continues.

As Vox reported on Thursday, while many federal workers could receive back pay after the government is reopened, thousands of government contractors aren’t “going to be paid at all.”

“As many as 2,000 subcontractors in federal buildings including janitors, security guards, and cafeteria servers are not only experiencing a sharp break in their work schedules, they also won’t be compensated for this pause,” Vox noted. “Government employees typically receive back pay after the shutdown is over, but contractors are paid directly by companies that can’t bill the government for services when it’s shut down. Because these companies won’t get paid, they, in turn, aren’t able to pay their workers.”

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