Coffers nearly dry, FEEA says most furlough loans could end next week

Monday - 8/26/2013, 1:41pm EDT

FEEA Executive Director Steve Bauer on "The Federal Drive" with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp

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(This article has been updated to reflect revised numbers provided by FEEA on the number of furlough loan applications received)

The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund has handed out thousands of dollars in loans to furloughed federal employees over the past few months.

But the group now says it won't be able to help out most furloughed feds beyond the end of the week, because donations haven't kept up with the crush of applications from employees facing the forced time off.

"After Labor Day, we will have to end any assistance to furloughed employees unless we have a tremendous influx of money," FEEA Executive Director Steve Bauer said in an interview on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp.

The organization will be able to continue making emergency assistance loans and grants to federal employees "who have something else horrific going on in their lives," Bauer said, such as a severe illness or the threat of eviction. "But if furlough is the only reason, come the end of this week, we're not going to be in a position to help those folks."

FEEA has faced extraordinary demand for its small, one-time emergency loans.

Since May, the group has received about 750 loan applications and has processed and distributed more than 550 loans, totaling about $319,000 in emergency assistance.

When all loans are accounted for — including those not related to furloughs — FEEA has provided about $456,000 in emergency assistance, or about one- third of FEEA's $1.5 million annual budget.

The massive influx of applications from furloughed feds has also caused FEEA's normal workload to balloon to between four and 10 times the normal level.

Feds, sponsors continue to donate

Bauer said the group was only able to continue disbursing loans this week thanks to a $30,000 donation from Blue Cross-Blue Shield and a $30,000 pledge from the GEICO Philanthropic Foundation, two of the group's corporate sponsors. Federal News Radio is also a FEEA sponsor.

Individual feds, themselves, are also pitching in, Bauer said.

"We got a check in the mail for $2,000 from an individual federal employee, who had not been furloughed, (who) read about our plight and our inability to continue to help federal employees and sent a check in," Bauer said.

Although FEEA is planning to scale back its furlough assistance, Bauer said the group won't turn a blind eye to those most in need. He described one recent loan application from a federal employee battling cancer that had metastasized to her lungs and liver, and who was struggling to keep up with hospital copays.

"And this brave young lady is still working, providing for her family and then she got furloughed," Bauer said. "It's the kind of situation where we'll find a way to help her."

Across government, many agencies have suspended or canceled remaining furlough days for their employees. The Defense Department, earlier this month, reduced the required number of days off from 11 to six. Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency also canceled its final furlough day.

FEEA isn't the only group to be affected by feds seeking furlough assistance.

The Merit Systems Protection Board, the federal agency that handles adverse personnel actions, was slammed with 30,000 appeals from furloughed feds.

MSPB said it won't be able to begin adjudicating most cases until after Labor Day.

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

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