New Jersey’s halt in transportation construction projects due to the stalemate over renewing the Transportation Trust Fund is now in its seventh week.
Many idled workers don’t want to file for unemployment benefits because they’d go to the bottom of the list to be recalled to work when the shutdown ends, said Anthony Attanasio, the executive director of the Utility and Transportation Contractors Association.
“These folks are in a really precarious position. They’re losing their pay in the height of the construction season,” he said Monday. “They’re reluctant to collect unemployment because then they might not be able to go back to the good-paying job they were on, working for a company they like working for or a company that likes to have them on a crew.”
State legislative leaders and Gov. Chris Christie have not resolved differences on which taxes to cut to offset a proposed increase in the gas tax to replenish the trust fund, which finances construction and other transportation projects.
It’s been traumatic for workers wondering just how long the shutdown will last, Attanasio said.
“You have folks who are concerned with big things like mortgages and then even the basic things like putting food on the table,” he said. “If you didn’t have a tremendous amount of savings and you were working paycheck to paycheck, how long could you go without a paycheck before you’d start worrying about your bills?”