LSS Financial Counseling Offers Practical Advice and Support During the Federal Government Shutdown
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.
The Federal Reserve Board has reported that nearly four in 10 Americans are unable to cover a $400 unexpected expense – which means that some of the furloughed federal employees have likely exhausted all of their cash reserves to stay afloat.
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:
- It’s a good idea to call your lenders/creditors, including student loan servicers, to let them know what’s going on and that you intend to pay as soon as you are able. And once your financial situation improves, start paying them back as soon as possible. You can also check into financial counseling to determine your best repayment options with those unsecured debts (personal loans, unsecured lines of credit, credit cards, old medical bills, etc.). Although the Office of Personnel Management provided access to sample letters, a more personal approach to this critical step can be helpful.
Switch to an Emergency Budget:
- Housing expenses need to come first. Prioritize your mortgage or rent payment, 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 you can temporarily suspend them. Or, if you determine you can go without them to save money indefinitely, then cancel them.
- Food: Stick to the basics when buying groceries. Look for cheaper meals where you can have lots of leftovers, such as chili, soups, and meatloaf. If you buy organic, you may temporarily need to buy non-organic items to save money. Plan your meals, shop with a list (and stick to it), avoid restaurants, use coupons, and use available local community 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 for you.
- Secured Debts: Be sure to keep up on secured loan payments, such as car loans to avoid repossession. However, you can always ask your lender if you can pay interest only or get a forbearance, which means they will allow you to miss a payment or a few temporarily and add them to the end of the loan. Only agree to what you can afford.
Minnesota 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 your hours are greatly reduced.
- Home Ownership Center www.hocmn.org or call (651) 659.9336 or (866) 462.6466
- Locate your 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.fareforall.org or call (800) 582.4291
- The cooperative food purchasing program is open to everyone. There are no income restrictions.
- Health Center Locator www.findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov or call (877) 313.1823
- Locate free or low-cost health centers including maps and contact information with this online tool.
- 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 https://mn.gov/commerce/consumers/your-home/save-energy-money 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 will help you find local community programs of all sorts for all ages.
- Charities, nonprofits and commercial businesses are all pitching in to provide a variety of support. If you are working with local media, identify some of your community partners who are actively offering special assistance for furloughed workers.
Get Professional Financial Assistance from Nonprofits
- Meet with an LSS Financial Counselor to learn about community resources and crisis budgeting. Our certified financial counselors are here with practical advice and support during and after the government shutdown.
* More About Creditor Assistance
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 1-.844.219.0690 and Chase can be reached at 888.356.0023.
Wells Fargo has a special website at https://www.wellsfargo.com/help/government-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 0% interest loans for up to $6,000 with a grace period.
LSS Financial Counseling offers certified counselors that provide a wide 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. Services are offered locally via offices in Minnesota and Wisconsin, over the phone and online. For services, call LSS Financial Counseling at 1.888.577.2227 or visit www.LSSFinancialCounseling.org