Furlough Loans Coming Next Week

Friday - 8/5/2011, 2:00am EDT

Could you use a $1,000 no-interest loan?

Lots of feds could right now. And even more may need an emergency loan once Congress returns to town.

Furloughed feds — those on forced leave and those likely to be furloughed in the fall — are between a financial rock and a hard place. It is not their fault. They didn't blow their paycheck at the track or take a vacation they couldn't afford. They are (or will be) out of work because their board of directors, that would be Congress, let them down in a porkbarrel food fight over subsidies for small towns and an ideological dispute over union organizing.

Many feds don't know, understand or care about why it happened. The fact is that a sizable number have been furloughed and the number is likely to grow when Congress returns from its most recent break (sometime after Labor Day) and continues to fight or do nothing about agency budgets.

So furloughs, as we noted on Monday, are already here for some and in the future file for many others.

Furlough rules vary from state to state. But by now, most of the 4,000 FAA workers and 70,000 private construction workers and contractors are eligible to apply. The question is should they?

For the private-sector types, it is a no-brainer. They have been pushed into the unemployment ranks (thanks Congress!) through no fault of their own. The chances that their companies, which aren't getting paid either, will reimburse them are slim and none. Once this is over, they will be out weeks of pay. So join the rest of the country. Apply for unemployment benefits. That won't help the economy (nor does tossing people out of work) but it will help their own personal economy's.

But furloughed feds face a different problem. Which is: There is a good chance that Congress, when it returns from its latest vacation, will vote to reimburse them for time they were not allowed to work. That is not a guarantee. But it is what has happened in the past.

If they apply for and get unemployment benefits, and if they are reimbursed, federal workers will have to reimburse the state for the unemployment benefits it awarded them. For people with an emergency nest egg that will allow them to pay their bills and keep eating, applying for unemployment might be too much of a hassle. But for people who live paycheck-to-paycheck, unemployment benefits are a life jacket.

There are other options to unemployment compensation:

  • The Federal Employees Education and Assistance fund (FEEA) is prepared to make no-interest loans of up to $1,000 to furloughed feds. The loans can be effective as early as next Tuesday ( Aug. 9). FEEA will need a copy of your pay stub showing your reduced compensation and copies of bills that are due. Executive director Steve Bauer said FEEA exists — with donations from rank-and-file feds and corporations like GEICO, Blue Cross-Blue Shield and LongTermCarePartners — in part to help feds at times like this. It has also made cash available to feds hit by storms or natural disasters, as well as to the survivors of victims of the Oklahoma City bombings and the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11. For details and contact information, click here.

  • The FAA Managers Assocation is setting up a fund to help furloughed FAA colleagues. President David Conley said many of his members have contacted the association asking to make donations to the fund for the furloughed. For details, click here.
And in response to dozens of emails on the subject, yes, members of Congress are continuing to draw their salaries while they are on vacation. But I bet you suspected that, right?

To reach me, mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Turn-of-the-century ketchup was explosive - literally. According to a National Archives blog, "Early ketchup was made from fermented skins and cores. These fermenting tomato leftovers could explode and burst their containers, so benzoate of soda was added as a preservative."


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