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Government Workers Turn to Craigslist to Pay Bills and Rent as Shutdown Wears On

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If you search words like “shutdown” on Craigslist in any major city in the country right now, you’ll likely find increasingly desperate people. Roughly 800,000 government workers and countless contractors aren’t getting a paycheck right now. And the resulting classified ads one sign of the heavy toll the shutdown is taking on those stuck in the middle.

It’s day 28 of the partial government shutdown, and President Donald Trump is keeping his promise to keep the government closed until he gets over $5 billion for his wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. Tens of thousands of employees have been ordered back to work, but they’re not getting paid. Others are just waiting. Which means that those workers appear to be doing whatever they can muster to pay their bills, including selling things on Craigslist.

“Our government shutdown pain is your gain!” one D.C. seller on Craigslist explains.


“Need some money ASAP due to Govt. Shutdown,” another says in an ad for an 18-month old Microsoft Surface Pro.

“Due to the government shutdown, stocks dropping and bills starting to become tight, I’m selling this laptop and downgrading to make life a little easier,” another seller in Olympia explains.


People are selling anything and everything, and plenty of people are selling vehicles, from the federal contractor in Denver selling his restored van to a seller in Portland explaining that their SUV is “priced to sell” because “I just need to pay bills an[d] rent asap.”

Music instruments are often seen as expendable, as you can see from this acoustic guitar in Seattle and this electric guitar for sale in Cleveland.


“Didn’t want to part with this but the shutdown has really made things difficult so my loss is your gain,” one guitar seller asking for $340 for their Ibanez in New York writes.

There’s plenty of furniture too, including couches in West Palm Beach and kitchen tables in St. Louis.


Shane Dean lives outside of Philadelphia and has had his motorcycle since 2013. But he’s recently retired from the Coast Guard, and his wife is active duty. And with 12-year-old and 9-year-old girls in the house, he’s had to put his Harley Davidson up for sale.


“It’s unfortunate, but it’s out of our control. We just have to make the best of it,” Dean told Gizmodo over the phone.

“When the government shut down, I pretty much put it on Craigslist instantly. That’s something I can get rid of that would help us out to delay the bills. A couple of them anyway.”


His girls are doing alright, Dean says, but they’re noticing that mom is gone. Dean’s wife, like the rest of the Coast Guard, isn’t getting paid right now. Despite being a branch of the military, the money for the U.S. Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security, which is being directly affected by the government shutdown.

Dean isn’t looking forward to the shutdown extending beyond February 1, when the U.S. Coast Guard pension stops paying out. Roughly 50,000 retired members of the Coast Guard are expected to go without their pension checks if that happens.


“What little bit of pension I do get, which is a substantial amount for paying the bills, is going to be gone,” Dean said.

People who say they’re affected by the shutdown are also turning to Craigslist to offer services and handmade items to hopefully take some of the stress off in these trying times.


“Due to the Federal government shutdown I am trying to earn some extra money while my Active Duty husband is not getting paid. I have made several knitting/crafting project bags,” someone who says they’re from a military family explains in Washington state.

Some are also using Craigslist to reach out to those government contractors in need. Like this charity in Georgia that’s advertising free food to anyone affected by the government shutdown.


President Trump—who, BuzzFeed News reported yesterday, allegedly directed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his plans to build a tower in Moscow—is doing lasting damage to the United States with his shutdown.

So when does this shutdown end? The Atlantic has a new article based on interviews with staffers of both parties on Capitol Hill. Everyone seems to agree that the only thing that’s going to stop this madness is something really terrible happening.


“It’s going to take a big national event to move things. I mean, we’re at a standstill,” one anonymous aide told the Atlantic.

One Republican staffer is even quoted as saying that they could envision the shutdown lasting well into March, when food assistance programs will run out of money and low income people will no longer be getting food stamps. The number of people soliciting for donation on GoFundMe grows by the day as well, as you can imagine.


Until President Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell finally end this, they continue to harm America’s long term prospects of being a stable and prosperous country. In the meantime, people will continue to sell stuff on Craigslist just to survive.

“We’re lucky enough that we have some stuff saved up, we have other means of borrowing money,” Shane Dean tells Gizmodo. “But we just have to take it step by step until this is over.”


Dean adds: “We’re all supposed to get back pay. But I never would’ve believed they’d ever stop any branch of military’s pay, let alone the pensions. This is unthinkable.”

If you have a story that you’d like to share about how the government shutdown has impacted you and your family, you can email: