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Color of Money: Furloughed federal workers turn to loans, GoFundMe campaigns and more to make ends meet

Michelle Singletary on

WASHINGTON -- On his way to Camp David on Sunday, President Trump was questioned about the financial strain the partial government shutdown has put on workers.

"Mr. President, do you relate to the pain of federal workers who can't pay their bills?" a reporter asked.

"I can relate," Trump said. "And I'm sure that the people that are on the receiving end will make adjustments. They always do. And they'll make adjustments."

How can Trump, a self-proclaimed billionaire living rent-free in the White House, relate to the plight of people living paycheck to paycheck? It was a tone-deaf response about the financial struggles many workers are experiencing and the anxiety of those federal employees who will miss their first paychecks starting this week. Many people who work for government contractors have already lost pay, and unlike federal employees, they won't all be made whole.

But Trump is right. People are making "adjustments." Here are some of their methods of making ends meet:

Workers are soliciting money from strangers to help them pay their bills. Since the shutdown, $50,000 has been raised through 700 GoFundMe campaigns, according to the company's spokesperson, Bobby Whithorne.

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"Being a contracted government worker, I'm losing pay every day that this government shutdown continues," wrote Julie Burr in one of the more successful crowdfunding appeals.

As of Jan. 8, Burr -- who said her husband passed away last year from a heart attack -- has raised nearly $9,700. Her goal was $5,000.

Many government shutdown appeals haven't raised any money, while others have garnered a few hundred dollars so far. If you're worried about fraud, Whithorne said GoFundMe's Trust & Safety division is reviewing all campaigns related to the government shutdown.

"We have a team of experts monitoring the platform, and we deploy multiple technical tools to verify fundraisers," he said.

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