Some of the 800,000 federal workers affected by the shutdown of federal government, now going on its 19th day, have launched crowdfunding campaigns to cover basic expenses, Quartz reports.
President Trump is demanding $5 billion for a wall (or...some metal slats?) along the Southern U.S. border, which Democrats are refusing to sign off on. As a result, hundreds of thousands of federal workers are not receiving paychecks as the government remains locked down, leading some to open crowdfunding campaigns on sites like GoFundMe to pay for food, their mortgages, etc.
Beyond donations, there are a few other avenues for workers going without pay:
Unpaid federal workers owe around $438 million in mortgage and rent payments alone in January, according to a report from real estate company Zillow. Add to that credit card, utility bills, student loans and other payments, and workers racking up quite a bit of debt.
According to NerdWallet, families affected should make it a priority to call creditors and ask for leniency, so they can use what funds they do have on essentials, like housing, food and transportation.
“Missing one payment on a credit account — such as a credit card, mortgage, auto loan or personal loan — can knock as much as 100 points off your credit score, and it can take up to three years to fully recover,” writes NerdWallet. “Sometimes there’s no way to avoid that, but it’s worth asking lenders if they have programs to help you avoid credit score damage.”
Some creditors will have options specifically for furloughed workers, so it’s worth calling and asking. If they don’t, ask if there’s anything they can do for you in the short term (especially if you have a good payment track record, credit card companies and banks are likely to be more lenient). In the meantime, here’s how to prioritize the bills you should pay in an emergency such as this. It’s easier said than done, but making at least minimum payments should be a priority.
211.org is a website that helps connect people to local social services, like providing food, shelter, help prescriptions and other medical issues, etc. You can visit the site or call 2-1-1 to speak to someone in person who can help you.
“Many credit unions and some banks are offering furloughed federal workers no-interest or low-interest loans during the shutdown,” writes NerdWallet. “Among them are California Credit Union, Navy Federal Credit Union, USAA and U.S. Employees Credit Union.” If you have access to these institutions, it might make sense to take out a personal loan.
These loans are preferable to payday loans, which should be a last resort. Make sure you read and understand the terms of the loan before you sign any agreement.
If you’re furloughed, you can likely apply for unemployment benefits in your state, though it varies. “In most circumstances, the state where an employee’s official duty station is located is the state that will determine a worker’s unemployment eligibility in the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees Program,” reports the Federal News Network. “State unemployment insurance agencies administer this program on behalf of the federal government.”
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management has guidance on how to apply, as does, in most probability, your local news or government website.
One thing to note, according to OPM, is that “in most States, including the District of Columbia, employees who receive unemployment benefits and also later receive a retroactive payment from their employer for the same time period, will be required to repay the UI benefits received.”