With no immediate end in sight for the partial government shutdown, more than 800,000 federal workers nationwide are without their first paycheck as of last Friday. This is the first payroll distribution affected by the shutdown.
Because impacted workers may be waiting for retroactive pay for an extended period of time, there will be a long road to financial recovery for some.
For workers impacted by the government shutdown, here are tips from LSS Financial Counseling, a nonprofit service in Minnesota that provides budget counseling, credit card debt management, student loan counseling, foreclosure prevention, and home ownership education:
Contact Creditors: It’s a good idea to call your lenders/creditors, including student loan servicers, to let them know what’s going on. There is also financial counseling available to determine the best repayment options with unsecured debts (personal loans, unsecured lines of credit, credit cards, old medical bills, etc.).
Switch to an Emergency Budget: Housing expenses need to come first. Prioritize mortgage or rent payments, homeowner’s insurance, association fees and property taxes.
Utilities: Pay heat, gas, electric and water bills to prevent shut-off. For unnecessary services such as a land line telephone, cable/satellite television, internet, etc. call to see if they can be temporarily suspended.
Food: Stick to the basics when buying groceries. Look for cheaper meals. Plan meals, shop with a list (and stick to it), avoid restaurants, use coupons, and use available local food programs.
Insurance: Even though some may think this is the first place to cut spending as it may not seem like they’re necessities, medical insurance and automobile liability insurance premiums are important. Not having those in place creates a potential liability.
Secured Debts: Be sure to keep up on secured loan payments, such as car loans to avoid repossession. However, your lender may allow an interest only payment or get a forbearance, which means they will allow a missed payment or a few temporarily and add them to the end of the loan. Only agree to what is affordable.
RESOURCES TO HELP BRIDGE FINANCIAL GAPS:
Minnesota Workforce Center http://mn.gov/deed/job-seekers/ or call 888-438-5627. Find free tools, resources and services needed for job search, career planning and training needs.
Unemployment Insurance (UI) www.uimn.org or call 651-296-3644 or 877- 898-9090. Apply for UI as soon as you are unemployed or when hours are greatly reduced.
Home Ownership Center www.hocmn.org or call 651-659-9336 or 866-462-6466. Locate a local mortgage foreclosure prevention/housing counseling provider. HOME Line www.homelinemn.org or call 612-728-5767 or 866-866-3546 Obtain free legal, organizing, education, and advocacy services for tenants.
Fare For All www.fare
forall.org or call 800-582-4291 The cooperative food purchasing program is open to everyone. There are no income restrictions.
Health Center Locator www.findahealthce
nter.hrsa.gov or call 877- 313-1823. Locate free or low-cost health centers including maps and contact information.
RxAssist Prescription Medication Resource Center www.rxassist.org or call 401-729-3284. Find info on pharmaceutical companies that provide free and low cost medications based on income.
Energy Assistance 800-657-3710 or mn.gov/com
ergy-Assistance-Providers.jsp for help with heat and cooling costs.
Bridge to Benefits www.bridgetobenefits.org or call 651-227-6121. Online screening tool to help determine eligibility for state supported health care and assistance programs.
United Way 211 www. 211unitedway.org or call 211 on landline phone or 800-543-7709 on cell phone. This referral center can help find local community programs of all sorts for all ages.
Charities, nonprofits and commercial businesses are pitching in to provide a variety of support.
Get Professional Financial Assistance from Nonprofits Meet with an LSS Financial Counselor to learn about community resources and crisis budgeting.
According to what has been reported by various media outlets, here is what is known regarding what creditors are doing for affected federal workers:
Bank of America and Chase have established special toll-free hotlines. Bank of America is 844-219-0690 and Chase can be reached at 888-356-0023.
Wells Fargo has a special website at www.wellsfargo.com/help/gov ernment-shutdown/.
Bank of America, Chase, Navy Federal Credit Union and Wells Fargo have offered support to federal employees by including fee refunds or waivers, loan modifications and repayment plans.
For federal workers who have direct payroll deposit, Wells Fargo will automatically reverse monthly service and overdraft fees. Chase also announced a similar plan.
Navy Federal Credit Union is offering zero percent interest loans for up to $6,000 with a grace period.
LSS Financial Counseling offers certified counselors for a variety of services including student loan, budget and debt counseling; debt management plans to consolidate credit cards; foreclosure counseling; and a comprehensive service for anyone interested in home ownership.
For services, call LSS Financial Counseling at 888-577-2227 or visit www.LSSFinancialCounseling.org.