More than 50,000 federal workers and contractors in the metropolitan area, including thousands on Long Island, are not receiving paychecks thanks to the government shutdown, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said during a news conference in Manhattan Sunday.
Schumer said more than 16,000 government employees — a third of the 51,000 federal workforce in New York City — and thousands more from Long Island, New Jersey and the northern suburbs are facing tough times as a result of the shutdown over President Donald Trump’s demands for funding for a southern border wall. Thousands of others who work for federal contractors, the New York Democrat said, have also been laid off due to the impasse between Trump and congressional Democrats.
“So it’s a pretty good guess that in the New York metropolitan area, over 50,000 people are not getting paid because of this shutdown,” Schumer said. “That is very bad for them and their families. They should not be hostages to President Trump’s demands.”
Schumer and other congressional leaders met with Trump for about two hours in the Oval Office on Friday, a meeting he said was unproductive.
“I was shocked at what he said,” Schumer told reporters Sunday. “He said ‘I demand it my way, $5.6 billion for a concrete wall and the government could be shut down for months or even years.’ Everyone, Democrats and Republicans, were sort of aghast when he said it.”
Schumer said Democrats are unwilling to trade permanent protections for immigrants brought to the United States as small children — the Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals population — in exchange for funding Trump’s proposed wall. He said the president has already rejected that deal, and the topic was barely discussed Friday.
“I would much prefer the symbol of America be the Statue of Liberty than a wall,” Schumer said Sunday.
Airport security and ports of entry have become less safe as a result of the shutdown, Schumer said, because Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection employees are working without pay. Some have been unable to go to work because they don’t have money for commuting expenses, he said.
Commuters who depend on New York’s subways, trains and bus systems will also be impacted by the shutdown, Schumer said. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority — “which has enough trouble, Lord knows” — receives about $150 million each month from the federal government, Schumer said.
The MTA can go four to six weeks without those funds, Schumer said, but will have to cut service or borrow money, passing on those costs to commuters, if the shutdown is extended.
Thousands of New York taxpayers will not receive refunds while the government is shut down, and the 1.5 million New York City residents enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the 400,000 families across the state that rely on the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program will not receive benefits, Schumer said. School lunch and breakfast programs will aso be shut down if the shutdown continues into next month, the senator said.
The Federal Housing Administration is not processing loans as a result of the shutdown, Schumer added, and the Environmental Protection Agency is unable to ensure drinking water is safe or regulate the use of dangerous pesticides and other toxins.
“So everyone is affected, whether you are a taxpayer, subway or bus rider, a potential home owner, a mom who wants to make sure you kids get fed,” Schumer said.
“This shutdown hurts,” the senator added. “It ought to end.”