President Trump Suggests Unpaid Workers Ask Grocery Stores for Free Food During US Government Shutdown

During the last full day of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, President Donald Trump suggested that grocery stores would "work along" with furloughed workers to get them free food.

On Thursday morning, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross raised eyebrows when he told CNBC that he did not understand why unpaid federal workers were going to food banks when they could take out a loan.

"When you think about, these are basically government guaranteed loans because the government has committed these folks will get their back pay once this whole thing gets settled down," Ross, who is estimated to be worth about $700 million by Forbes, told CNBC.

Ross continued, "So there really is not a good excuse why there should be a liquidity crisis. Now, true, the people might have to pay a little bit of interest. But 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."

Right after that comment, the interview went viral and was widely criticized as out of touch. A few hours later, Trump was asked about Ross' comment with another statement perceived as strange.

"Perhaps he should have said it differently. Local people know who they are, (where) they go for groceries and everything else. ... They will work along," Trump said. "I know banks are working along. ... And that's what happens in time like this. They know the people; they've been dealing with them for years. And they work along. The grocery store — And I think that's probably what Wilbur Ross meant."

Critics on social media bashed Trump's comments, suggested he has no idea how a real grocery store works. Others referenced Trump's false claim during an August 2018 rally that you need an ID to buy groceries.

On Friday, the 35th day of the partial government shutdown, Trump announced a deal to re-open the government for the next three weeks. According to CBS News, the deal does not include funding for the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, the whole reason why Trump refused to sign a budget in December. Trump said federal workers will receive their back pay "very quickly" or "almost immediately."

The continuing resolution was unanimously passed by the Senate before it heads to the House, where it is expected to pass. It will keep the government funded through Feb. 15.

Trump still insisted the wall needs to be built and said he would not rule out declaring a national emergency if Congress does not reach a long-term deal by then.

0comments

"We'll work with the Democrats and negotiate and if we can't do that, then we'll do a—obviously we'll do the emergency because that's what it is," Trump said from the Rose Garden. "It's a national emergency."

Photo credit: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images