Furloughed government employees have set up more than 1,500 GoFundMe campaigns that have raised a combined $300,000 as they try to make ends meet during the government shutdown.
CNN reported on the data Thursday, which comes with a potential catch: it might be against the law for federal employees to take the money.
Citing a section of the U.S. government code titled "Bribery, Graft, and Conflicts of Interest," CNN noted receiving any outside sources of income is illegal for federal workers because the potential exists for them to be influenced in their jobs.
Convictions could result in five years imprisonment and/or the greater of either $50,000 or the amount of money they received.
Former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics Walter Shaub told CNN the law is aimed at federal workers who accept money "in exchange" for their government work. But he said there could be a situation in which employees who receive donations through crowdfunding sites are violating the statute.
"It is entirely possible that the government would decide this conduct violates that law, so I personally would never have done something like this while I was in government," Shaub said. "The potential penalties are quite severe."
Many of the workers who have launched GoFundMe campaigns said they need the money to pay bills and buy food for their families.
The government shutdown began Dec. 22 after lawmakers were unable to agree on providing funding for a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Now nearly four weeks in length, it's the longest shutdown in U.S. history and does not appear to be ending anytime soon.
In the meantime, roughly 800,000 federal workers are not getting paid.
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