Commerce Secretary says he doesn't understand why furloughed workers are turning to food banks

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Thursday he doesn’t understand why furloughed federal employees might use food banks, saying they should instead seek loans until the government reopens.

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The comment came during a CNBC interview Thursday when Ross was asked about reports of some federal workers relying on charity, such as food banks and shelters, for essentials during the shutdown. He replied, “Well, I know they are, and I don't understand why.”

He went on to say, “The idea that it’s paycheck or zero is not a really valid idea. There’s no reason why some institution wouldn’t be willing to lend.”

Ross, a billionaire and a friend of President Trump, leads a department directly affected by the shutdown, which entered its 34th day Thursday, The Washington Post reported.

Ross’s comments have ruffled feathers. Shortly after the interview, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi commented, “Is this the ‘let them eat cake’ kind of attitude? Or call your father for money?”

An estimated 800,000 federal employees have been furloughed since the partial government shutdown began Dec. 22. In addition to not receiving paychecks, federal workers may start receiving bills for their vision and dental insurance premiums, according to another Cox Media National Content Desk report.

Peter Neffenger, former Transportation Security Administration chief and a former vice admiral of the Coast Guard, also made comments Thursday about furloughed government workers, reported Jamie Dupree, the Washington correspondent for Cox Media.

“There is a point at which there is a breaking point,” Neffenger said. "To fail to pay people who have done these hard things, I think, is unconscionable.”

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