Affected by the Government Shutdown? Here’s What You Need To Know.
- January 15, 2019
- By: Greenpath Financial Wellness
Over the weekend, the partial government shutdown passed its 22nd day, making it the longest shutdown in history. Of the about 800,000 federal employees affected, nearly 380,000 have been furloughed (given a leave of absence) and the remainder continue to work without pay.
While most people affected by the shutdown are located in the Washington D.C. area, workers going without pay can be found nationwide.
For millions of Americans, an unexpected financial setback can make it feel like your world is caving in around you. If you or a loved one has been affected by the government shutdown, it’s important to know that you are not alone and that everything is going to be okay. We offer the steps below to support you in setting a plan for your expenses:
Step 1: List Out and Prioritize Your Expenses
The first thing to do is understand your overall financial situation so you can get an idea of what you need to pay and what you have to work with. Use GreenPath’s budgeting worksheet to list out your expenses and due dates.
When prioritizing which bills you should pay first, begin with basic needs (shelter, food, heat, lights).
Once you’ve taken care of yourself, attend to your debts in order of priority. While threats of a low credit score or calls from a debt collector can be intimidating, it’s important to focus on paying down debts with collateral (something that can be taken from you) such as a house or car payment. After your financial crisis passes, you can work on catching up with unsecured debts like credit cards, internet, and cable bills.
Step 2: Open Lines of Communication
Talk to your lenders or creditors to see if there is anything you can do regarding upcoming bills. Many financial institutions and service providers are offering assistance programs and other freebies to employees experiencing financial hardship during the shutdown, ranging from no-interest loans to refunding normal fees. Many utility companies also offer utility payment plans for people with financial hardships.
Step 3: Look for Ways to Generate Cash, And Cut Spending Where Possible
Look for ways to earn extra income such as selling unused items, offering ride share services or performing freelance work or odd jobs. One of GreenPath’s partners, Moonrise, offers an app where people looking for extra cash can apply for odd-jobs in their area and get paid the same day.
One additional option for furloughed workers is to apply for unemployment. (Note, those who continue to work through the shutdown are not eligible for unemployment insurance.) It is also important to know that any unemployment compensation given during a shutdown must be repaid once the government reopens. Several federal websites, such as the Office of Personnel Management’s, have FAQs for furloughed workers that include information on how to file for benefits.
In addition to finding additional sources of money, evaluate your current spending habits to see where you may be able to make adjustments to spend less: set a strategy to save money on groceries, see if you can freeze your gym membership, reduce your cable bill, lower your energy usage, and cut any non-essential spending you can such as entertainment and eating out.
Step 4: Call GreenPath
A nonprofit team of certified financial and housing counselors, GreenPath is here to help. We offer compassionate, judgment-free coaching and advice free of charge to federal employees and anyone seeking support for paying off debt or needing guidance on what to say when contacting creditors. We can also support you to make a plan for the future to ensure you are prepared for life’s curve balls. Contact us today!