DoD furloughs could cause FEEA loans to swell to record levels

Wednesday - 7/24/2013, 2:47pm EDT

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By Cogan Schneier
Federal News Radio

As Defense Department employees now face weekly furlough days, the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEA) is experiencing record applications for loans and grants.

FEEA director Steve Bauer said on Your Turn with Mike Causey Wednesday that the organization expects the number of loan applications to skyrocket in the coming weeks, as DoD employees will see a 20 percent income drop.

"I anticipate that the record number of applications we're getting will be left in the dust in the coming weeks because most DoD employees had a recent paycheck with one furlough day, but now the furlough days are weekly. So the next paycheck they receive will have two furlough days on it, meaning their income has dropped 20 percent," Bauer said.

FEEA is a nonprofit organization that provides loans for feds who are having trouble meeting their basic living expenses. Before sequestration went into effect, Bauer said most FEEA loans were going to people who were struggling to make ends meet even with a full paycheck.

FEEA distributed four loans related to furloughs in May. The number jumped to 82 in June. Unpaid furlough days accounted for $49,000 of FEEA loans paid that month, stated a FEEA press release. Bauer estimates that half of the federal workforce has or will soon experience furlough time.

"Now that the furloughs have hit, often times after something else has happened in their life which has either impacted their income or increased their expenses they just can't cut it and they don't know where to turn," Bauer said.

Bauer said FEEA's efficient application process and quick turnaround time has let the organization help many people in the face of sequester pay cuts.

To apply for a loan, FEEA requires documentation that proves federal employment, pay stubs before and after furlough days to show a pay decrease, and some other documentation of an employee's needs, such as an electricity bill or a statement from a landlord. Bauer said FEEA takes between 24 and 48 hours to produce a check after an application, assuming the employee provided proper documentation.

FEEA pays creditors directly to ensure money goes to the right place, Bauer said. The interest-free loans can be up to $1,000 — for at least one year.

FEEA also provides scholarships and grants. The organization has assisted feds and their children in other times of emergency, including the Oklahoma bombing and after 9/11.

"It's very rewarding obviously, and we do it on behalf of all the folks that have donated to us. Were talking big dollars that people willingly give and raise, and its important for them to hear how that money was used," Bauer said.

G. Jerry Shaw and Robert Tobias founded FEEA in 1986. Bauer said that he and others saw the need for civilians to have an assistance program similar to those in the military, and created the fund with the help of individuals and corporate sponsors.

Two decades later, FEEA has raised more than $20 million for federal employees and their families, Bauer said.

Bauer also discussed his early experiences with FEEA, flying to Miami with a suitcase full of cash for families at Homestead Air Reserve Base who had been affected by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

To find out more about furlough loans or donating to FEEA, visit Federal News Radio's Surviving Furloughs page.

Cogan Schneier is an intern for Federal News Radio.

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