For most Americans, the partial federal shutdown is more of an abstraction than anything else; it’s on the news and in the papers, but not highly visible unless you’re flying to Florida or closing on a house.

But for hundreds of thousands of federal workers, it couldn’t be more real. And as the longest shutdown in history gets longer, the pain will seep into the lives of countless other Americans, many among our most vulnerable, all because President Donald Trump promised a costly, ineffective border wall and now cannot back down.

So the stalemate continues, with Trump last week making a dead-on-arrival proposal that doesn’t even fix the various immigration problems he himself created. It offered no concessions to Democrats, who stand ready to approve standalone funding bills to re-open government.

Meanwhile, federal workers will miss their second paycheck on Friday. For those in Maine, that means holiday spending, heat and utility bills, and mortgage payments are beginning to mount — and they still don’t know when they’ll be paid again.

Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, on Tuesday filed a proposed bill to help those workers. It would allow the state to guarantee loans from banks and credit unions to federal employees in Maine — no-interest loans for one month’s pay up to $5,000 so federal employees can get through until they receive back pay.

Legislative leaders will meet Thursday to decide whether to send the late bill to the full Legislature.


They should do so. Legislators should have the opportunity to debate how best to get temporary relief to these workers without exposing the state to undue risk.

It is a shame, however, that such a bill is needed at all. And if the shutdown continues much longer, more legislation like it will have to be considered.

In addition to the federal workers who are working without pay — and who are not eligible for unemployment benefits — the shutdown is starting to hit poor Americans who use government services.

Housing subsidies for low-income renters are being cut off, and the residents who benefit from them are being threatened with eviction. Programs that help the homeless, disabled and elderly are running out of funding and being cut back. Hurricane relief housing projects in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico have slowed.

Another month, and assistance for food and other basic necessitities for Americans in need will be in jeopardy.

Then there are the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans who work for federal contractors and now find their jobs at risk as government payments dry up.

Soon, where it hasn’t already, the stress and uncertainty caused by the shutdown will shift to pain and suffering, and it will be felt by more and more Americans. Homes will be lost, meals will be missed, and medication gone without.

It’s good to know state government can step up in such a situation and limit the distress. It’s sad to think that it might be necessary.

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