Commerce secretary on unpaid federal workers: Let them get loans

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U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said unpaid federal workers could borrow to tide themselves over during the government shutdown rather than call in sick to earn a paycheck elsewhere.

"The banks and the credit unions should be making credit available to them. When you think about it these are basically government-guaranteed loans" because "they are eventually going to be paid," Ross told CNBC in an interview on Thursday in response to reports of absenteeism undermining safety in the nation's skies.

The longest shutdown in U.S. history entered its 34th day on Thursday. Pressure is building on President Donald Trump and both parties in Congress to resolve the dispute, as federal workers will miss their second paychecks on Friday.

Whether in protest or out of necessity, a growing number of federal workers whose jobs have been deemed essential are calling in sick or claiming hardship exemptions. Lines at some airport-security checkpoints are growing as Transportation Security Administration employees, who are working without pay, call in ill. White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Kevin Hassett said Wednesday that if the shutdown extends through March, there's a chance of zero economic expansion this quarter.

Ross, a wealthy former private-equity investor, said that while people might have to pay a little bit of interest to borrow, "there really is not a good excuse why there really should be a liquidity crisis."

Bloomberg News