Federal workers miss a 2nd paycheck today—here's how many Americans could do that and still pay bills

Two-year old Rosa Rivera is carried by her mother, Tania Alfonso, 38, a federal worker, as Union members, including National Federation of Federal Employees and SEIU, and furloughed federal workers rally in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, January 23, 2019.
The Washington Post | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Around 800,000 federal employees missed their second payday in a row on Friday as the partial government shutdown entered its 35th day. For most Americans, that would spell disaster.

Over half, or 54 percent, of people say they would have trouble paying their bills if they were forced to go without more than two paychecks, according to a new poll of over 1,000 U.S. adults from FOX News. That total includes the one in five Americans who say they couldn't even go without one paycheck.

Other research indicates the situation could be even more dire: 78 percent of American workers say they're living paycheck-to-paycheck, according to a 2017 report by employment website CareerBuilder.

The impact of the shutdown

With no end to the shutdown in sight, many government employees have had to get creative to meet their financial responsibilities. Some have opted to cancel autopay on their bills, skip seeing the doctor, or even sell their car.

Hundreds are turning to local food pantries and shelters to feed their families. One Chicago-based food pantry told the Chicago Tribune it had helped 130 federal employees since the shutdown started, while a Utah-based organization estimated it had given out supplies to 280 federal employees.

That confuses Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, he told CNBC on Thursday. "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."

Workers could be visiting real banks instead, Ross said: "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."

Watch CNBC's full interview with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on the shutdown, trade tension
Watch CNBC's full interview with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on the shutdown, trade tension

His response was criticized as "out of touch with reality" by one money expert. He also took heat from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who compared him to Marie Antoinette.

Roughly eight out of 10 Americans say they're very or extremely concerned about "what's going on in Washington these days," according to the FOX poll. The only bigger worry: health care costs.

What to do to pay the bills

If you're affected and have good credit, some banks and credit unions are stepping up to provide relief, but federal workers with lower credit scores may have few options. Among the big national banks, U.S. Bank introduced a new low-rate (0.01 percent APR), quick loan of up to $6,000 for customers who are federal employees, including those who have mortgages, car loans or credit cards with the bank, but approval does hinge on your credit.

PayPal announced a program to give up to $500 interest-free cash advances to federal workers who use the company's PayPal PYPL Credit service. The service is subject to credit approval, though, according to the service.

Meanwhile, Bank of America, J. P. Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo are not offering loans but are waiving late and overdraft fees.

Some of the more flexible options are from credit unions. The U.S. Employees Credit Union, for example, provides interest-free loans to their members for amounts based on their current government paycheck. Approval is not based on a credit score.

The Navy Federal Credit Union is also offering interest-free loans of up to $6,000 for federal employees and contractors. The loans are for 60 days or whenever their pay is reinstated — and no credit check is needed.

David Bach: This is when you should get a credit card
David Bach: This is when you should get a credit card

You can also start with credit cards, says personal finance expert Suze Orman. The problem, though, is that roughly one in three Americans worry about maxing out their credit card with a large purchase (anything over $100), according to a recent WalletHub credit cards survey.

If you are at your limit, you could try calling the credit card and explaining the situation. And if you're approved, plan to start paying down the balance as soon as the government reopens.

You could also consider taking a loan from your retirement account if necessary. Orman says the partial shutdown is an "emergency situation" and federal employees in need of funds can consider dipping into their Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). The TSP is a retirement plan, similar to a 401k, for federal employees.

"This will be the first time in the history of my entire career that I am telling anyone to even consider this," she said during her podcast "Women and Money," "but if you don't have the money to pay your bills — if you don't have any way to feed your children — then you might want to consider taking a loan from your retirement account. … And when and hopefully you do get your back pay, you then can pay it back."

Don't miss: Suze Orman says federal employees are in an emergency and can consider breaking a key money rule

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Kevin O'Leary: Here's how to end the government shutdown
Kevin O'Leary: Here's how to end the government shutdown