The US government’s Office of Personnel Management on Thursday sent letters to furloughed federal workers to advise them about justifying their potential inability to pay credit card bills, mortgages or rent amid the ongoing partial government shutdown, now in its sixth day and with no end in sight.
According to official figures, 800,000 of the total 2.1 million federal workers have not been paid since the partial shutdown of the government last Saturday, and many may be finding themselves short of cash to make their required payments during the Christmas holidays.
In its missive, the OPM suggested that federal employees call their landlords, mortgage companies and/or creditors to speak with them about their situation before sending them the letter the employees received on Thursday.
“Speaking with your creditors will enable you to work out the details of any payment plan that you can later confirm with your letter,” said OPM in its memo to furloughed federal employees.
The OPM also posted on its Web page assorted non-legal advice, along with three form letters they could use.
“I am a Federal employee who has recently been furloughed due to a lack of funding of my agency,” said one of form letters provided by the OPM. “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.”
However, the OPM acknowledged that it cannot offer legal advice to federal employees and suggested that - if necessary - they consult with their personal attorneys or their state’s bar association.
The partial shutdown affects about 25 percent of the administration’s departments and offices, although the Pentagon, for instance, has been funded through September 2019.
The closure affects 38 percent of US government employees, who will not be paid as long as Congress does not allocate funding to do so.
If an agreement cannot be reached among GOP and Democratic lawmakers in the Senate, or if President Donald Trump does not approve a congressional budget deal, the shutdown could last into January, when Democrats will retake control of the House of Representatives.
Democrats have said that they will not approve financing for Trump’s much-touted wall along the border with Mexico, which they regard as anathema and against American values, although the president has said that he is willing to have the shutdown last until he gets the funding he is demanding for the wall.