Here’s How Furloughed Workers Can Survive The Government Shutdown

October 04, 2013

U.S. News & World Report

Federal government employees are out of work and so are numerous contract workers who count the government as a client. And then there are people like Steve Silberberg, 52, based in Boston and the owner of, which specializes in fitness backpacking adventures throughout the country.

“Since our destinations are primarily national parks and national forests, we can no longer operate,” Silberberg says.

Surely Silberberg is exaggerating a little. Can’t his operation go somewhere other than a national park or forest? Not as easily as one might think. First, his guided trips are typically 40 to 100 miles long, and although state parks are an option, hiking through a national park is part of the allure of his business. Silberberg also needs to apply for permits to lead his hikers (usually about 12 per trip) and camp in the parks and wilderness areas within national forests, and the permitting offices are closed. When they do open, he doesn’t expect to get his permits quickly since the offices will likely be backlogged with paperwork.

If the shutdown continues and Silberberg has to begin refunding money – an early November trip in Arkansas is now in jeopardy – he figures three of his contract employees will lose $1,000 each. Silberberg expects he will lose $10,000. “I know this isn’t much for many people,” Silberberg says, “but I promise you, taking people backpacking is no way to start an invincible financial empire.”

So if you’re losing your livelihood or significant income in the government shutdown, what should you do? Here are some ideas.

Do the obvious. In other words, this isn’t the time to schedule an expensive getaway to Europe. If the shutdown lasts longer than a week and doesn’t appear to be reaching a resolution soon, people “would need to behave just like the laid-off workers from our recent recession,” says Mac Clouse, a professor of finance at the University of Denver. “Cut back on the discretionary spending, especially things like entertainment, luxury items, unnecessary car trips, high-priced food items and so on. Belt-tightening will be required.”