As we head into yet another week of the government shutdown, many furloughed government employees might be struggling with how they’re going to pay their bills.
While being furloughed means that an employee’s holiday vacation has gotten a little longer, it also means that they’re not getting paid. While the government is shut down, credit card companies and banks are not, so those employees will still be expected to pay things like their mortgage and other bills, just as if they were working as normal.
If that’s you, the United States Office of Personnel Management, which is also partially shut down, tweeted out some tips on how employees can work with their creditors during the shutdown as well as some sample letters that can be sent to creditors (Warning: that link is a .doc that will download when you click on it).
On a basic level, it recommends contacting your landlord, mortgage company or creditor, explaining the situation, and then asking if they can work with you to offer a waived payment or a reduced monthly payment until the furlough is over. It’s not a guaranteed fix, but it’s worth a shot.
Once you’ve negotiated a deal, it suggests sending a letter, perhaps via certified mail, directly to the person that you spoke to organize the reprieve. You should also keep a copy of the letter for your own records, should an issue arise later.
Here’s what it suggests sending your mortgage lender:
Dear (Name of Company or individual with whom you have spoken)
This is to confirm our conversation of (date) in which we discussed a temporary reduction in my mortgage payment.
As we discussed, 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 mortgage, along with my other expenses.
As we had agreed in our conversation, I will be able to make regular payments in the amount of $_______. I realize that I will be responsible to pay the remainder of the payments and, when I return to work, I will contact you immediately to work out a plan to take care of the reduced payments. I will also keep in touch with you to keep you informed about my income status.
I appreciate your willingness to work with me and your understanding during this difficult time.
The letters are not meant to be a replacement for a conversation, but rather a way to put a deal that was made over the phone or in person in writing—don’t just send one of these without talking to someone first.
If you are furloughed, it’s not a bad idea to go ahead and try to strike those deals now. While the shutdown might end soon, it could also drag on, which could make paying those bills difficult down the line, even if they aren’t an issue for you just yet.