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Workers Struggled During Government Shutdown: Prudential

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Unpaid mortgages, burned savings, food bank visits — those were some of the consequences for workers during the longest U.S. government shutdown that ended last month, according to Prudential Financial Inc.

More than a quarter of federal employees missed a mortgage or rent payment during the shutdown, while 49% fell behind on bills in general, according to the Prudential survey of 352 federal workers, contractors and spouses. Even though government workers are more likely to have emergency savings compared with the general public, many depleted most or all of that cushion, the poll showed.

(Related: Why You Should Sell Disability Income Protection Insurance)

“Boy, this is really tough — it is really a wake-up call for them, and for everybody else, that emergency savings matter,” Jamie Kalamarides, president of Prudential Group Insurance, said in a phone interview. “It really shines a spotlight on the financial distress that a majority of American workers have, because they lack the tools to withstand a brief disruption of income.’”

The survey by Prudential, the second-largest U.S. life insurer, is timely: Negotiators in Washington who are trying to avert yet another shutdown ahead of a deadline this week are awaiting word on whether President Donald Trump will approve a tentative deal.

Other findings of the report include:

  • More than 40% of households affected by the shutdown increased debt, while 26% dipped into retirement savings.
  • Almost 40% of respondents delayed vacations or major purchases, while 33% took on temporary work.
  • A quarter of workers used a food bank and 23% cut medical spending.

The impact on the affected employees may be lasting: “When they miss their payment or when they postpone their health, they not only get sicker, but they affect their credit scores as well, so that future borrowing is going to be more expensive,” Kalamarides said.

The report underscores the need for employees to protect themselves against unexpected events with emergency savings or disability insurance, he said.

“People who have been vulnerable are even more so when they go through these challenges.”

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