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Federal Government Advises Furloughed Workers to Barter for Their Rent

Guidance suggests employees offer “to perform maintenance (e.g. painting, carpentry work) in exchange for partial… payments”

United States Office of Personnel Management seal

Emblem on the door of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in Washington, DC.

Shutterstock / Mark Van Scyoc

On Thursday, the Office of Personnel Management, the agency that oversees federal workers, tweeted a document with advice for the 800,000 furloughed federal workers who will not receive paychecks during the government shutdown. The document also included sample letters that federal employees can send to creditors explaining their situation and asking for reduced payments until they receive back pay. In one of the sample letters, the agency encouraged workers to barter with their landlord for their rent by offering “to perform maintenance (e.g. painting, carpentry work) in exchange for partial rent payments.”

Federal workers are currently entering their seventh day without any pay, and OPM is advising them to contact creditors to negotiate lower payments until the shutdown ends and their pay is restored but tells them to “contact a personal attorney” for personal financial advice. How workers will pay for that attorney when they are not collecting a salary, however, the agency did not say. It also suggested federal workers contact creditors over the phone, saying “just sending a letter may not be very effective.”

Former deputy secretary of labor and Obama advisor Chris Lu expressed dismay, tweeting: “The U.S. [government] is the world’s most powerful organization. This is what it’s been reduced to.”

OPM issued guidance last week telling federal employees that they will receive paychecks for the pay period from December 9th-22nd, but even that check will be smaller than normal, since the government shut down on the last day of the pay period. They will not receive any other paychecks until the shutdown ends, when Congress typically funds federal workers’ backpay when the government re-opens.

But federal workers are preparing for a prolonged shutdown, as President Donald Trump tweeted Friday morning that he will not end it unless Congress allocates funds for the border wall between Mexico and the United States.

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