Global Politics

US government shutdown has out-sized impact on African American workers

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President Barack Obama discusses the impacts of the government shutdown.

WASHINGTON — Although the shutdown of the federal government that began Tuesday is affecting all Americans, a disproportionate portion of the 800,000 furloughed federal workers are African Americans, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Because government jobs have been more available to Blacks than private sector employment over the years, Blacks, who comprise 13.6 percent of the U.S. population, make up 17.7 percent of the federal workforce.

Overall, people of color represent 34 percent of the federal workforce. Latinos are 8 percent of government workers, Asians are 5.8 percent, Native Americans are 2.1 percent and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders are .40 percent of federal employees. People of color are 37 percent of the U.S. population, a figure projected to grow to 43.3 percent as soon as 2025 and 57 percent by 2060.

Federal workers considered non-essential to the functioning of government were instructed not to report for work as of Tuesday, the first day of the new fiscal year, because Congress failed to pass a permanent or interim budget in time to prevent a federal shutdown, the first in nearly two decades.

The impasse came as a result of the Republican-controlled House's desire to tie any budget measure to defunding the Affordable Care Act, the major provisions of which went into effect Tuesday. Democrats, for their part, refuse to consider any such approach.

The longest federal shutdown lasted 21 days, from Dec. 16, 1995 to Jan. 6, 1996. In the past, furloughed federal workers received retroactive pay for the time they were out. But there is no assurance that would happen this time.

Members of Congress are exempt from furloughs.