Paycheck to Paycheck: The Government Shutdown Reminds Us How Most Americans Live

by | Jan 12, 2019 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

A mother sits at her kitchen table, a pile of bills before her: The water bill, the electrical bill, the daycare payment, the rent note. She is writing out the checks, maybe she is paying some online, but she is being careful with the dates on those checks—trying to make sure they line up with times when there will be money in her checking account.

Sometimes, no matter how you date it, it just doesn’t add up.

This scene is not an anomaly in America: As many as 78% of Americans working full time live paycheck to paycheck (Source: CareerBuilder 2017). While it is true that employment is high across the nation and throughout much of Northwest North Carolina, it is also true that wages have not kept up with the cost of basic needs.

Families accessing food through the Second Harvest partner network frequently tell us that they are making difficult choices each month between paying their rent or paying for food; paying for their medicine or paying for food; paying utility bills or paying for food. Studies show that it is not just an issue of budgeting: More than 50% of Americans say that they are able to save only $100 or less a month—savings that can easily disappear with one visit to the doctor or one broken appliance.

The current partial federal government shutdown has helped to highlight this serious problem in our country: Working families cannot always make ends meet. Simple and mundane “extraordinary” expenses, like a car breakdown or a leaking water heater, can disrupt the careful balance of the most ordinary family’s budget, and be the beginning of a spiral of debt. Nearly 40% of American families do not have access to $400 in the case of an emergency.

For many families, missing one paycheck is the emergency.

If you are one of the 800,000 federal employees or contractors impacted by the current shutdown, know that you can access food through our partner network if you find yourself in need. Second Harvest’s network spans 18 counties and consists of over 460 partner programs where you can access healthy food throughout the month. To find a location closest to you, click here.

If you see this reality lived out by so many—too many—of our neighbors and want to support our work through giving food, funds, or your time, we invite you to learn more about us and how to get involved by visiting our website.

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