Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross Says ‘I Don’t Really Quite Understand Why’ Federal Workers Are Going to Food Banks During Government Shutdown

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross argued with loans backed by the guaranteed back pay, federal workers should be able to find the money to carry them through the government shutdown. | Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Thursday said he doesn’t understand why some federal workers are seeking out food banks during the government shutdown, saying they have the option of low-interest loans instead.

Speaking on CNBC, Ross argued the roughly 800,000 unpaid federal workers can take out loans to cover their bills as they’re poised to miss another paycheck this week. The billionaire investor also emphasized that they’ll get back pay once the shutdown ends.

“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 is really not a good excuse why there really should be a liquidity crisis now.”

“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,” he continued.

Federal employees have reported going to homeless shelters to find food for their families, but when asked on Thursday about the desperate measures, Ross replied: “Well, I know they are, and I don’t really quite understand why.” Ross argued with loans backed by the guaranteed back pay, federal workers should be able to find the money to carry them through the shutdown.

Ross’s interview marked the latest comments from a Trump official that seemed out of step with the thousands of federal workers who are suffering because they live paycheck to paycheck. Federal workers staged a sit-in outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office on Wednesday demanding an end to the shutdown. J. David Cox, national president of the American Federal of Government Employees, wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump earlier this month arguing the shutdown impacts not only employees but also the beneficiaries of their services.

“They want to be providing vitally important services to their fellow Americans and they want to be paid,” Cox wrote of federal workers.

Other Trump officials have received backlash for their comments about the shutdown.

Kevin Hassett, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, got flack after appearing to compare the shutdown to a vacation, saying it could leave workers “better off” because they will receive backpay and many aren’t having to report to work. Hassett later said his words were taken out of context.

And Lara Trump, an adviser and daughter-in-law to President Trump, was criticized earlier this week after saying the shutdown was necessary to get strong border security.

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SOURCE: Politico, Matthew Choi