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Federal workers face creditors and landlords as shutdown continues

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    REI Co-op customers walked past an unstaffed ranger station kiosk, closed as part of the federal government shutdown, inside the flagship store Wednesday, in Seattle. The desk is normally staffed by rangers who provide recreational information and passes for public lands in Washington state as part of a partnership with the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Washington State Parks, and REI.

WASHINGTON >> The Office of Personnel Management released draft letters today for federal employees to hold off creditors during the government shutdown.

Nearly 800,000 federal employees have either been furloughed or will be working without pay as the government shutdown enters its sixth day. That means households with federal workers are trying to figure out how to get by without their usual paycheck as the holiday season comes to a close.

OPM’s guidance suggests that workers call their landlord, mortgage company, or creditor to speak with them about their situation, even before sending a letter.

“Speaking with your creditors will enable you to work out the details of any payment plan that you can later confirm with your letter,” says the memo from OPM.

The agency provided a sample letter to creditors, mortgage companies and landlords to help workers impacted by the shutdown to communicate with the entities that are expecting regular payment.

“I am a Federal employee who has recently been furloughed due to a lack of funding of my agency. Because of this, my income has been severely cut and I am unable to pay the entire cost of my monthly payments, along with my other expenses,” reads one sample letter that OPM released.

The OMP guidance made clear that the agency cannot provide legal advice for furloughed federal workers.

“If you need legal advice to assist you in any response to creditors, landlords or the like, consult with your personal attorney or contact your state or county bar association, many of which maintain lawyer referral services,” reads the memo.

Most federal workers will get their checks for the next pay date, because the pay period ended before the shutdown began. The first date that workers would not receive pay is Jan. 11.

In the past, Congress has provided back pay to furloughed workers.

On Friday evening, the Senate passed legislation that would ensure federal employees facing furloughs during the shutdown would be guaranteed back pay once the government reopens. The Senate approved the measure by unanimous consent as hopes for a spending deal wavered just hours before the deadline.

House lawmakers have already introduced companion legislation with dozens of cosponsors, but the chamber has not yet taken a vote.

Among the federal workers impacted by the partial shutdown are approximately 42,000 active-duty military members of the Coast Guard remain who will remain on duty, but will work without pay until further notice. The Coast Guard is the only part of the military funded under the Department of Homeland Security, rather than the Department of Defense which continues to be funded during the shutdown.

Most of the thousands of civilians that work for the Coast Guard have been furloughed without pay until further notice, with a small number still working as essential personnel.

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