Hundreds of thousands of federal government workers, from the Coast Guard to the National Weather Service, face another payday with out pay Friday, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross suggests they get a loan to cover it.
Thursday on CNBC's "Squawk Box," Ross acknowledged that he had heard that some federal workers affected by the prolonged shutdown have been going to shelters for food, but said he didn't understand why.
"I know they are [going to homeless shelters] and I don't really quite understand why because as I mentioned before, the obligations that they would undertake – say borrowing from a bank or credit union – are in effect federally guaranteed," said Ross. "So the 30 days of pay that people will be out – there's no real reason why they shouldn't be able to get a loan against it and we've seen a number of ads from the financial institutions doing that."
Banks and credit unions are offering affected workers interest-free loans to cover part or all of their paychecks, he said.
"When you think about it, these are basically government-guaranteed loans because the government has committed, these folks will get back pay once this whole thing gets settled down," Ross said. "So there really is not a good excuse why there should be a liquidity crisis. Now true, the people might have to pay a little bit of interest but the idea that it's paycheck or zero is not a really valid idea."
But workers will have to shop around. Three of the largest banks, J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, are not offering loans, but are waiving fees and providing other assistance. Navy Federal Credit Union is offering loans, but they are only available to some of its 8.1 million members. And some others, like the Department of the Interior's credit union, say they are having delays making shutdown loans due to the high volume of requests.