Banks Reach Out to Furloughed Feds

With paychecks hanging in the balance, banks offer loans and credit to federal workers.

The shutdown has left federal employees nationwide unsure of exactly when – or if – they will receive their next paycheck. A bill that would grant retroactive pay for furloughed employees is in limbo, stuck in the Senate. And even though “excepted” employees working during the shutdown know they will eventually be paid, it is unclear when that will happen; President Obama has vowed to veto a measure that would have ensured they didn’t miss any paychecks.

It’s not all bad news for federal employees trying to keep up with their bills, however.

Many banks across the country have pledged to help workers affected by the shutdown. TD Bank has launched TD Cares, a program that advances furloughed feds $1,000 without any interest, reimburses late fees on credit cards and adjusts mortgage payments through Nov. 2.  

"Uncertainty surrounding the government shutdown has our customers concerned and TD is here to help," Nandita Bakhshi, executive vice president at TD Bank, said in a statement. "By launching TD Cares, our hope is that we can make it easier for our customers to cover their bills and make ends meet if they're not receiving their pay."

The Navy Federal Credit Union is offering special rates on its overdraft line of credit, loan assistance and expedited approvals for increases in credit limits. It had guaranteed to cover the mid-October paychecks for its active duty military customers, but Congress has since intervened to ensure those individuals receive their regular pay on time even if the shutdown continues.

Capital One posted a message on its website stating it is prepared to help individuals with the “unanticipated financial challenges” the shutdown has presented.

“We encourage you to contact us if you need assistance,” Capital One said. “We have programs in place to help all customers experiencing financial difficulties due to hardship situations, which includes sudden loss of income.”

Some feds will also receive a break on their car payments, with Hyundai offering furloughed workers a payment deferral program during the shutdown.

"We recognize the impact on family budgets that the furlough will drive," John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, said in a statement, adding this is Hyundai’s way of telling feds “we’ve got your back during this uncertain time.”

Feds can typically take out a loan against their retirement account in difficult times, but the Thrift Savings Plan has noted enrollees in non-pay status are prohibited from doing so, as the payments on the loans are taken from payroll deductions. Employees may be able to tap into their TSP account, however, though a “financial hardship” withdrawal. This requires an enrollee to demonstrate one month of negative cash flow.

Financially-strapped employees could also try the Federal Employees Education and Assistance Fund, which typically provides no interest loans to public servants in need. Due to an influx of loan requests from employees furloughed by sequestration, however, FEEA has severely cut back on its fed-assistance program during the shutdown.

Keep the Shutdown, Bring Back All Workers

In recent weeks, lots of lawmakers have said lots of things about federal employees’ pay.

Democrats have pointed to Republican efforts to issue retroactive pay to furloughed workers as a reason the government should reopen. Republicans have attempted to exploit Democrats’ sympathy for the federal workforce to bring them to the negotiating table. Members of both parties have attempted to show empathy by promising to forfeit their own pay in solidarity with the furloughed ranks.

From Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., comes a novel suggestion: continue the shutdown, but end the exempted/excepted/non-excepted distinctions and pay all federal employees, on time. On the House floor, Lamborn elaborated he envisioned his bill would bring all federal employees back to work as the shutdown drags on.

Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., expressed a similar position Tuesday.

“If you are going to get back pay, you ought to be working for your pay,” Sanford told CNN.  

In the days before this current crisis, there was a different term for Paying All Federal Employees On Time To Conduct Regular Work During a Government Shutdown; it was simply called “government.”