December 27, 2018 / 5:29 PM / 23 days ago

U.S. government advises workers on staving off creditors amid shutdown

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As a partial shutdown of the U.S. government stretched into its sixth day, the agency that oversees the federal workforce offered advice on staving off creditors to the estimated 800,000 employees who could be affected by a lapse in pay.

The U.S. Capitol is lit during the second day of a shutdown of the federal government in Washington, U.S., January 21, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) suggested furloughed workers could offer partial payments to mortgage lenders and posted on its website form letters they could use.

“I am a Federal employee who has recently been furloughed due to a lack of funding of my agency,” said one of three templates offered by the agency. “Because of this, my income has been severely cut and I am unable to pay the entire cost of my mortgage, along with my other expenses.”

In a Twitter post, OPM said idled workers should contact personal attorneys if they needed advice on dealing with creditors.

President Donald Trump and congressional leaders have reached an apparent stalemate in a fight over government funding with the president insisting on $5 billion from taxpayers for a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico against stiff resistance from Democrats.

Unable to reach a compromise, about a quarter of government agencies shut down at midnight last Friday.

Trump has said he will wait to reopen the government for however long it takes to receive the funding for the wall, and Democrats sound willing to wait until they claim control of the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 3.

The stakes are high for the estimated 15 percent of the federal workforce whose agencies are affected. Although they will receive paychecks as normal for the pay period that ended Dec. 22, future pay remains in doubt, even as their bills do not.

According to the American Federation of Government Employees, a union that represents federal employees, about 420,000 federal employees will be working without pay, while 380,000 others have been told to stay home.

AFGE spokeswoman Ashley De Smeth said the letter templates were developed during a shutdown in 2013.

“It is business as usual,” she said. “It is up to each agency to decide how to use them.”

OPM did not respond to a request for comment.

“Due to a lapse in appropriations, OPM responses to incoming media (requests) may be delayed,” an email from the office said.

Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Tim Ahmann and Bill Trott

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