President Donald Trump said Thursday that community businesses including grocery stores and banks will likely “work along” with federal employees impacted by the partial government shutdown.
The remarks came as Trump was asked about controversial comments made by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who said Thursday that impacted workers should take out a loan rather than using food banks to cope with the loss of an income during the shutdown.
While Trump said he was unfamiliar with the specifics of Ross’ comments, he offered a possible explanation: That federal workers who have been furloughed or forced to work without pay should be able to easily get relief from businesses in their community.
“Perhaps he should have said it differently. Local people know who they are, (where) they go for groceries and everything else. … They will work along. I know banks are working along. … And that’s what happens in time like this. They know the people; they’ve been dealing with them for years. And they work along. The grocery store — And I think that’s probably what Wilbur Ross meant.”
The partial federal shutdown, now in its 34th day, has left about 800,000 workers with their incomes cut off until the impasse is resolved. Most Americans can’t cover an emergency expense of $1,000 from savings, according to a January Bankrate survey.
Trump has signed legislation guaranteeing impacted federal workers will receive back pay when the shutdown ends, but the most vulnerable workers may still struggle to secure a loan, said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate.
Numerous banks have pledged to help federal workers whose pay has been impacted by the shutdown. Some, including The Congressional Credit Union, have offered special lines of credit for federal workers.
Numerous other businesses — from cell phone providers to restaurants — have also offered various freebies and assistance programs to federal workers.
The shutdown comes as Trump is demanding $5.7 billion to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which was a signature promise of his presidential campaign. Democrats are refusing to give him the money, arguing that a border wall is costly, ineffective and — in the words of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — an “immorality.”
Contributing: Michael Collins, Eliza Collins, David Jackson, John Fritze, Paul Davidson and William Cummings