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Government shutdown harder on Black workers

George Curry | 10/3/2013, 1:28 p.m.
Diane Talley spends time with her 15-year-old daughter, Kiani, at their Arizona home on Tuesday. Talley, a medical administrator at Luke AFB's 56th Medical Group Mental Health Clinic received her furlough notice earlier in the day, due to the congressional impasse. Charlie Leight of The Arizona Republic

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – 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, especially under de jure segregation, 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 a Republican-controlled House determination to tie any budget measure to defunding the Affordable Care Act, the major provisions of which went into effect Tuesday.

On Monday, President Obama warned about the consequences of a federal shutdown.

“With regard to operations that will continue: If you’re on Social Security, you will keep receiving your checks. If you’re on Medicare, your doctor will still see you. Everyone’s mail will still be delivered. And government operations related to national security or public safety will go on. Our troops will continue to serve with skill, honor and courage. Air traffic controllers, prison guards, those who are with border control – our Border Patrol will remain on their posts, but their paychecks will be delayed until the government reopens. NASA will shut down almost entirely, but Mission Control will remain open to support the astronauts serving on the Space Station.”

Obama added, “I also want to be very clear about what would change. Office buildings would close. Paychecks would be delayed. Vital services that seniors and veterans, women and children, businesses and our economy depend on would be hamstrung. Business owners would see delays in raising capital, seeking infrastructure permits, or rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. Veterans who’ve sacrificed for their country will find their support centers unstaffed. Tourists will find every one of America’s national parks and monuments, from Yosemite to the Smithsonian to the Statue of Liberty, immediately closed. And of course, the communities and small businesses that rely on these national treasures for their livelihoods will be out of customers and out of luck.

“And in keeping with the broad ramifications of a shutdown, I think it’s important that everybody understand the federal government is America’s largest employer. More than 2 million civilian workers and 1.4 million active-duty military serve in all 50 states and all around the world. In the event of a government shutdown, hundreds of thousands of these dedicated public servants who stay on the job will do so without pay – and several hundred thousand more will be immediately and indefinitely furloughed without pay.”