Dems Introduce Bill To Protect Federal Workers Who Can’t Pay Rent

January 17, 2019 - 1:12 pm

WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/AP) — Furloughed federal workers on Thursday said they are concerned about being evicted or having vehicles repossessed on day 27 of the partial government shutdown, because they cannot pay their bills.

However, a number of representatives, including Hudson Valley Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney, have proposed legislation to protect federal workers who are going without pay nearly one month into the shutdown.

The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act would prohibit landlords and debt collectors from taking action against federal employees who have fallen behind on their bills.

Maloney tells WCBS 880 that federal workers “shouldn't be penalized because a bunch of politicians in Washington, you know, can't do their jobs.”

He notes that while creditors still do need to be paid, “the real pain is going to be felt, in the first instance, by folks who are being preyed upon.”

The bill already has over 10 co-sponsors in the Senate and if passed will provide a temporary safeguard.

“The real solution is to fix the shutdown,” Maloney adds. “But this is one way to try to try to keep innocent people from getting hurt.”

Additionally, PSE&G has introduced new procedures to help furloughed federal employees and other customers who are facing financial difficulty during winter months.

In a statement the company announced: "Customers having trouble paying their bills are urged to call customer service to discuss their situations. PSE&G is prepared to extend 60-day grace periods to customers seeking assistance who meet criteria, including financial hardship due to circumstances beyond their control."

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed a bill that would provide back pay to the roughly 800,000 furloughed federal employees.

Workers will be paid when the shutdown comes to a conclusion.

CBS News White House correspondent Steven Portnoy also notes that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is urging the president to postpone his State of the Union address “citing security concerns.”

“The speaker's office says that a furloughed Homeland Security staffer expressed serious concerns about the agency's ability to secure the State of the Union set for January 29,” Portnoy explained.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department said Thursday the number of furloughed federal employees seeking unemployment benefits jumped in the first two weeks of the shutdown, topping 10,000 during the week of Jan. 5. The agency said that is double the number of federal workers who sought aid in the previous week.

Federal employees who aren't working during the partial government shutdown are eligible to claim unemployment aid, while those working without pay are not, the Labor Department has said. 

The number of Americans overall who sought unemployment benefits last week declined 3,000 to 213,000, the government said. That figure doesn't include federal beneficiaries, who are tracked in a separate category. Applications by federal workers are reported with a one-week delay.

More furloughed federal workers could apply for unemployment benefits in the weeks ahead. The Labor Department will release data for the week ending Jan. 12, the third week of the shutdown, next week.

Applications rose last week in states with a large number of federal contractors, many of whom are also working without pay. In Washington D.C., unemployment claims rose to 2,158 from 1,190, while in Virginia they jumped to 5,966 from 3,497 and in Maryland to 4,949 from 4,467.

The overall data suggests the job market remains healthy, with few layoffs. Employers added a strong 312,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate stood at a very low 3.9 percent.