Counties, Utility Companies Offer Assistance to Furloughed Federal Employees in D.C. Area

Posted: 2:30 am EST

On January 14, we posted Furlough Assistance For Federal Employees and Pets During Shutdown. This is a follow-up list focusing on county assistance, and Washington, D.C. area utility companies that hopefully can be of use to you.  H/T to peacecorps.gov for the original utilities list offering assistance to furloughed employees. We have supplemented their list.

 

Arlington County Utility Payment Plans for Furloughed Federal Employees 

If you are a furloughed federal employee and are struggling to pay your County Utility Bill, please call our Customer Contact Center at 703-228-6570. You may be eligible for a payment arrangement that will allow you to extend your payment without the accrual of any late fees.

Fairfax County Coordinated Services Planning (CSP)

CSP connects Fairfax County residents to county and community-based services and resources. Just one phone call will get you connected to the information and assistance you need. Call 703-222-0880, TTY 711. In addition, our multilingual staff can assist callers in Amharic, Arabic, Dari, Farsi, French, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Pashto, Punjabi, Somali, Spanish, Swedish, Tigrinya and Urdu. CSP services are also available in other languages through the use of an interpreter.

Beginning Thursday, Jan. 17, Fairfax Connector will provide free rides system-wide for federal government employees affected by the government shutdown who are still required to report for work.

  • You must show your federal photo ID to the bus operator when boarding to ride free.
  • By showing your federal photo ID, trips taken on all Fairfax Connector bus routes are free, including express routes to and from the Pentagon and Downtown D.C.

Alexandria, VA for  food assistance and other resources, call 703.746.5902

The Reston Community Center will be offering special summer camp fee waivers for affected families. To be eligible for this shutdown program, families must present their federal government employee identification when registering for 2019 camp sessions. Affected federal departments include Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Interior, Justice, State, Transportation and Treasury. Patrons must also live or work in Reston to receive the special fee waiver.  Affected families will pay $10 per child per week of camp; some camps are half-day in length. RCC offers an “after-care” option called Zen Zone for those in less than a full day of camp, which would cost another $10 for enrollment under the fee waiver program.

Loudoun County 

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has approved financial aid to local food pantries and a temporary fee waiver for federal workers who ride Loudoun County Transit buses. The Board also approved the allocation of up to $25,000 to Loudoun Hunger Relief and the Dulles South Food Pantry to help the organizations meet any increase in requests for food assistance caused by the federal government shutdown.

Prince George’s County Relief Package

From Angela D. Alsobrooks Prince George’s County Executive:

“Yesterday we held an event with several local partners to announce a “shutdown relief package” for Prince George’s County residents who are currently furloughed by the federal government shutdown. Through a combination of county government resources and contributions from community partners, we are offering a package of resources that will help bring some stability and security to families who are trying to figure out how to pay the bills or put food on the table. While we do not know how long this shutdown will continue, we want our county residents who are struggling to know that we have your back. I’d like to highlight a couple of the resources being provided by the county below:

Maryland National Capital Park and Planning, through their Department of Parks and Recreation, will waive membership fees for any federal worker affected by the shutdown. You may use any of their exercise facilities. The department is also waiving childcare fees for furloughed workers until the end of the shutdown.

I have authorized our county budget director to put an additional $70,000 into our Emergency Assistance Fund, giving us a total of $150,000 to help those with immediate financial need. The fund can help with items such as delinquent mortgages, utility bills and other financial needs.

While these are resources that the county is providing, local partners in the community have stepped up to provide several resources as well. We’ve built a webpage that lists all the resources currently being offered to furloughed workers, and we will continue to update it as we get more commitments. To find all those resources, please visit the site at: www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/shutdown.

Washington, DC Area Utility Companies 

Pepco waived late fees and said customers could call to set up budget billing or move bill due dates. The utility also created a $50,000 matching grant to an emergency fund created by the United Way of the National Capital Area.
D.C. customers can call 1-800-735-2258;
Maryland customers can call 1-800-643-3768.

D.C. Water said in a statement that it would “immediately begin working with any federal worker who may need additional flexibility in paying their bill.” Programs include extended payment plans and assistance offered through the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment.
Customers can call 202-354-3600.

Washington Gas said in a statement that it will “offer flexible payment arrangements for government employees directly impacted” by the shutdown. Programs include payment deferments, budget plans and help through a fuel assistance fund.
Customers can call 1-844-WASHGAS.

Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission  WSSC will suspend all water service shutoffs to ensure safe, clean water continues to flow to customer’s homes. Additionally, the state’s largest water utility serving 1.8 million residents in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will delay bill payments, waive all late fees, and work one-on-one with customers impacted by the shutdown to establish convenient payment plans.  In addition to these new assistance measures targeted to customers impacted by the federal shutdown, WSSC offers a variety of affordability programs to help customers in need.
Customers are encouraged to contact WSSC and speak with a representative at 301-206-4001 or 1-800-828-6439 to discuss their specific situation.

Dominion Energy doesn’t have a program specifically for furloughed workers, but the utility has a number of options for energy assistance, including budget billing and programs offered through the Virginia Department of Social Services.
Customers can call 866-366-4357.

The Washington Area Fuel Fund (WAFF): Founded by Washington Gas and administered by The Salvation Army, WAFF helps families who do not qualify for, or who have exhausted, government energy assistance. WAFF provides funds for all types of fuel to heat families’ homes during the winter heating season. Through its merger with AltaGas, Washington Gas has increased its funding to WAFF and broadened WAFF’s eligibility beyond low-income customers. For example, a family of four earning $75,050 could qualify for assistance. WAFF also accepts donations to assist neighbors in need. Every dollar donated to WAFF goes directly to those who need assistance because Washington Gas pays the administrative fees of the fund. For more information or to apply for assistance, contact The Salvation Army at 888-318-WAFF (9233) or visit http://washingtonareafuelfund.org/.

 

Emergency Food Via AFL-CIO-United Way

Community Services Agency of the Metropolitan Washington AFL-CIO | 202-974-8226

Non-perishable canned and dry goods available while supplies last. Must make appointment to pick-up by emailing sducote@dclabor.org.

Capital Area Food Bank https://www.capitalareafoodbank.org/programs-2/#Distribution

Northern Virginia Family Service Emergency Food Assistance (NVFS) https://www.nvfs.org/our-services/healthwell-being/food-assistance/

See more AFL-CIO Government Shutdown Resources

American Federation of Government Employees(AFGE)/Feeding America

Find Your Local Food Bank

#

Operation Chaos: $4.2Billion and counting, this is the ongoing #TrumpShutdown cost to U.S. taxpayers

Posted: 12:13 am EST

Via shutdowncalculator.com

Note: We will keep this counter on the blog’s side bar until the federal government reopens. Thanks XX!  For those who do not like the name of this shutdown, please watch this “I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it” video before sending us a love letter.

#

 

@StateDept Issues “To Whom It May Concern” Departmental Letter to Creditors

Posted: 3:22 pm PST

 

Below is the letter the State Department issued for employees to send to their creditors. This is exactly the same text of the letter issued by the Department of Homeland Security to its employees on December 22, 2018.  Please DM or email us whether this letter has any effect on the response creditors extended to you. Also, if any grocery chain accepts this in lieu of payment, please give us a holler.

Via state.gov:

Furlough Assistance For Federal Employees and Pets During Shutdown

Posted: 3:11 am EST
Updated: 1:10 pm EST
Updated: Jan 16, 2:35 am EST: Click here for counties/utilities assistance for furloughed employees.

 

SDFCU

Furlough Relief for Impacted Members

The State Department Federal Credit Union is offering service changes to help members who may be impacted by the current government furlough.

Please call us at 800-296-8882 or 703-706-5000, or email sdfcu@sdfcu.org to request assistance with any of the following:

  • – Refund any late fees on loan payments
  • – Eliminate the penalty for cashing in Share Certificates early so you can have access to your money sooner rather than later
  • – Refund cash advance fees for our Visa Platinum or Premium Cash Back+ credit cards when using an ATM
  • – Make emergency credit card loans available at 0% interest for the first two months
  • – Delay loan payments on a case-by-case basis

The services listed above are only available to members directly impacted and are scheduled to end on January 31, 2019; however, the program end date might be adjusted depending upon the length of the government furlough.

 

Thrift Savings Plan

Government Shutdown and Loan Payments

“Government Shutdown and Loan Payments — (January 8, 2019) The TSP allows for the suspension of loan payments when you go into nonpay status to prevent your loan from going into default. Normally, we require documentation from your agency or service. However, the TSP does not need documentation of your furlough at this time. If your loan payments were up to date prior to the furlough, missing one or two payments will not cause your loan to be in default. You can check the status of your loan by logging into My Account, selecting “TSP Loans,” and then selecting “Are my payments up to date?” Or you can call the ThriftLine at 1-877-968-3778 and speak to a Participant Service Representative.

As long as retroactive pay is approved, all missed loan payments will be submitted and posted to your loan. We will provide more information as the furlough continues or as events change.” (via tsp.gov)

 

Navy Federal

Government Shutdown Assistance

You may be eligible for government shutdown assistance if your pay is impacted, you’ve set up direct deposit of pay with Navy Federal, and you are 1) a Federal government employees, 2) Active Duty service members of the Coast Guard

Navy Federal’s Government Shutdown Loan Program calculates loan amounts based on the amount of the most recent direct deposit of pay made prior to the interruption of pay. Loans have a 0% APR and are available up to a maximum loan amount of $6,000.

If your pay is disrupted, but you don’t meet the eligibility requirements, Navy Federal recommends that you visit a branch or contact them at 1-888-842-6328 to discuss your situation with one of their Member Service Representatives.

 

Chase Bank

Customers Affected by Government Shutdown Should Call Chase If They Need Help with Their Loans

Chase encouraged customers affected by the U.S. government shutdown to call if they need help with their Chase mortgages, credit card accounts or car loans. Customers can find out about Chase’s hardship programs by calling the special care line at 1-888-356-0023.

Chase offers hardship programs to customers broadly who have been affected by unemployment, financial strain or natural disasters, including potentially:

  • Waiving or refunding late fees
  • Extending payments on car loans and leases
  • Protecting customers’ credit histories

 

Wells Fargo

Government Shutdown Assistance

The bank will work with individuals and business banking customers whose income is disrupted as a result of the shutdown. Customers should call 1-800-TO-WELLS, or the number on their credit card, debit card or statement for assistance, or visit any Wells Fargo branch.

In addition, Wells Fargo mortgage, loan, and credit customers may qualify for forbearance or other payment assistance programs based on their individual circumstances. Click here for specific services available and contact numbers.

 

Bank of America

Bank of America Contacts Clients Affected by Government Shutdown

“Our Client Assistance Program is available to individuals affected by the shutdown for personalized financial assistance, tailored to their specific situation and financial needs.”

The bank has set up a priority assistance phone line that clients can contact at 844.219.0690. For personalized assistance, they also can schedule an appointment to meet with a specialist.

 

Capital Area Food Bank

Part of the Food Bank Network connecting its partners and neighbors in need with healthy food. The Food Bank Network creates links to the CAFB’s network of food assistance partners and programs while providing real time access to services such as affordable housing and job training. Click here for searchable database for food assistance and other necessities.

 

For Pets

 

Federal Offices in WDC Area on Trump Shutdown Now on Snow Shutdown For Monday 1/14

Posted: 1:08 am EST

 

Via OPM:

This announcement does not apply to furloughed employeesimpacted by the lapse in appropriations, as they are already in a non-work status.

Excepted employees (e.g., those excepted from the furlough to protect life or property or those who must support them or other non-furloughed employees “by necessary implication”) will follow the operating status announcement, except any time in a non-work status will be considered to be furlough time.

Employees who are Funded or Exempt from Furlough

Non-emergency employees generally will be granted weather and safety leave for the number of hours they were scheduled to work. However, weather and safety leave will not be granted to employees who are:

  • emergency employees who are required to report for duty;
  • telework program participants (with certain narrow exceptions);
  • on official travel outside of the duty station;
  • on preapproved leave (paid or unpaid) or other paid time off (applicable to Funded or Exempt employees only); or
  • on an Alternative Work Schedule (AWS) day off or other non-workday.

Except as noted in the discussion above:
Emergency Employees are expected to report to their worksite unless otherwise directed by their agencies.

Telework Employees (i.e., employees who are participating in a telework program, including those who perform telework regularly and those who telework on an ad hoc basis) generally may not receive weather and safety leave. They must account for the entire workday by teleworking, taking unscheduled leave (paid or unpaid) or other paid time off, or a combination, in accordance with law, regulations, agency policies and procedures, and any applicable collective bargaining requirements (as consistent with law).

Leave. In general, an employee on preapproved leave (paid or unpaid) or other paid time off should continue to be charged leave or other paid time off and should not receive weather and safety leave.

(Posted on January 13, 2019 at 8:45 PM)

Trump Shutdown Day #24: Cartoonists Draw Insane Weeks For Federal Hostages

Posted: 12:52 am EST

Despite shutdown, Pompeo to go on with ambassadors conference to meet his 180+ field commanders, to look them in the eye

Also, who’s fast depleting  Diplomatic Security’s residual funds?

 

Secretary Pompeo told reporters at his stop in Abu Dhabi that morale at the State Department is good despite the shutdown (see Pompeo says “morale is good”. C’mon now, it’s swaggeryfuck good!). It’s so good that despite the shutdown, and State Department personnel being furloughed or working with no pay, he will still host the ambassadors’ conference, officially called the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference in D.C. next week. Via AP:

“It’s something that we’ve had teed up for a while,” he said. “It is incredibly important that they hear directly from me. It’s an important opportunity for me to get in front of 180-plus of my commanders in the field to look them in the eye and describe to them what it is we’re doing and how it is I expect them to do that.”
[…]
Almost half of the State Department employees in the United States and about one-quarter abroad have been furloughed during the shutdown. With the exception of certain local employees overseas, the rest are working without pay, including those tasked with supporting Pompeo’s trip, which has thus far taken him to Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Bahrain.

An excerpt from Secretary Pompeo’s January 11 message to agency employees posted on the state.gov website also says this:

We are also committed to hosting the Global Chiefs of Mission Conference in Washington, D.C. next week. Bringing together the men and women who lead our overseas diplomatic missions is essential to successfully achieving our unified mission of advancing America’s foreign policy.

Even though the Secretary’s people are quite prolific, that’s  the only Miles With Mike update we’ve seen posted online. The message is posted under  the “M” press releases but not even clearly labeled. We are guessing that we’re seeing this in the public website because furloughed employees do not have access to their government email.

In any case, the State Department — despite the poor, no good, terrible optics — will go on with the Global Chiefs of Mission conference come rain or shine, shutdown or not, rapture or not, pay or no pay. Below via FP:

The State Department has decided to move forward with a major conference for all U.S. chiefs of mission and ambassadors abroad—there are 188—who will descend on Washington from Jan. 15 to 18 for a slew of meetings and receptions. Organizing the conference is a massive logistical undertaking, and bureaus at the State Department are pulling in furloughed employees to work overtime, with no pay, to set up the conference.
[…]
The spokesman noted travel for conference was arranged and funded prior to the government shutdown. The spokesperson called the timing of the conference “crucial to the safety, security, and prosperity of the United States” and added: “Given that the Senate has just confirmed 23 ambassadors, this conference is particularly important and timely in helping them get off to the right start as they assume their duties immediately.”

Just because this was funded before the shutdown, doesn’t mean they absolutely must go on with it during the shutdown. Are they afraid that this shutdown will go on for years, and there will not be a 2019 GCOM conference? The spox called the timing of this conference “crucial to the safety, security, and prosperity of the United States”, then my golly, what do we call the timing of the shutdown that’s now entering its fourth week?

Also the latest ambassador confirmations — except for the two going to Australia and Kenya respectively, are all career diplomats who are not going on their first overseas appointments. Using them as an excuse is just lame, yo!

As of January 4, President Trump has made 136 ambassadorial appointments (67 political and 69 career appointees).  The State Department’s new  Furlough Guidance notes the pay status/exception for Presidential Appointees:

According to OPM, individuals appointed by the President, with or without Senate confirmation, who otherwise are not subject to 5 U.S.C. 6301 and attendant regulations governing leave in the Federal service, are not subject to furlough. The salary of such a Presidential appointee is an obligation incurred by the year, without consideration of hours of duty required. Thus, the Presidential appointee cannot be placed in a nonduty, nonpay status. If a Presidential appointee, however, chooses to be in a nonpay status, the appointee may return part of his salary to the employing agency, provided that the agency has authority to accept gifts, or to the Treasury. Regardless of the Presidential appointee’s choice, the appointee’s entire salary is recorded for tax purposes. The following exceptions must be noted: former career Senior Executive Service (SES) appointees who took appointments at level V of the Executive Schedule or higher and elected to retain SES leave benefits under 5 U.S.C. 3392(c), are subject to furlough at the discretion of the agency. Also, Presidential appointees to positions requiring Senate confirmation, for example ambassadors, who choose to retain SFS/SES pay and benefits are subject to furlough at the discretion of the responsible Assistant Secretary, e.g. when absent on leave.

So the political appointees attending this big do in D.C. will be on paid status, while career appointees including approximately 50 chargé d’affaires are possibly deemed onduty and on nonpay status. All participants are flying to D.C., staying at DC hotels, and will have meal & incidental expenses paid for. The event will be supported by either employees working with no pay, or furloughed employees recalled “to work overtime, with no pay, to set up the conference.”

Of course, we can imagine that the support staff will be pumping with pride and joy — and who wouldn’t?

Here they are living the life they’ve always wanted, their dysfunctional government without care is in shutdown, they’re working with no pay, and they are supporting the 70th secretary of state meeting his 180-plus commanders in the field so he can look them in the eye, before he send them off to battle.  Or something. There will be talks, and at some “glitzy cocktail receptions at four-star hotels” (reportedly not organized or paid for by the State Department), there will be food, and drinks for the guests and the field commanders. There will be photos, of course, except — wait, are official photographers considered “essential” for this event?

If morale is “good” now, we can imagine it will be fuckityfuck great when this is all over. Now, you don’t need a survey to know that so no need to hire $M-dollar consultants to perform a survey on morale after the GCOM.

Meanwhile, about the Diplomatic Security’s residual funds …

We’ve blogged previously about what accounts are funded at the State Department during the shutdown.  One of those funded is Diplomatic Security which has already urged begged posts for the “prudent use of overtime” to slow down the drawdown of its residual funding. We don’t’ know how much “available balance” is there in this bureau.  But we’ve wondered out loud (others quietly) how long will the State Department be able to pay for its local employees including local security guards at 277 overseas posts without regular funding? See #TrumpShutdown Enters 18th Day, At Least $2.5B in Costs and Counting, With No End in Sight. For potential cascading impact if Diplomatic Security is unable to make payroll for guards, see What happens after pay period #26?

Secretary Pompeo has been on foreign travel from January 8-15. The trip is taking him and his wife to 1) Amman, Jordan; 2) Baghdad, Iraq; 3) Erbil, Iraq; 4) Cairo, Egypt; 5) Manama, Bahrain; 6) Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; 7) Doha, Qatar; 8) Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; 9) Muscat, Oman; and 10) Kuwait City, Kuwait.

Not only are essential/not paid employees supporting this travel, Diplomatic Security agents from the State Department and at these overseas locations must be racking up their overtime. How much overtime? Somebody please FOIA that.

#

Trump Shutdown Day #22: Longest Ever, Also Can “Better Off” Federal Hostages Eat Vacation Days?

 

Marking the 22nd day of the Trump Shutdown. This is now officially the longest government shutdown in history.

Also here is a White House official who need not worry about a paycheck, calling the current chaos and debacle on government workers’ lives as somehow putting them in a “better off” universe.

Pompeo says “morale is good”. C’mon now, it’s swaggeryfuck good!

We’re intentionally using our 12-letter curse word instead of the shorter one.  We’ll wash our mouth and keyboard with Lifebuoy soap for eight seconds longer after we have this up. You’re welcome.

#

Trump Shutdown Day #21: Across America, Federal Hostages Are Hurting

Posted: 1:06 am EST

Today marks the 21st day of the Trump Shutdown, making it exactly as long as the 1995 Gingrich Shutdown, a 21-day shutdown which was apparently caused  by this pettiness: “Gingrich confessed he’d forced the closing of the federal government partly because Bill Clinton had relegated him to a rear cabin aboard Air Force One on the way home from Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral in Jerusalem.”

Then as now, the federal government furloughed 800,000 workers.

By Saturday, this sh*tshow, which somebody publicly said he is proud to own, will be the longest shutdown in history. Congress can do its duty as an equal branch of our government and pass a bill over the president’s objections and re-open the government. This requires a two-thirds vote in the House and in the Senate. A two-thirds supermajority in the Senate is 67 out of 100 senators, and  two-thirds supermajority in the House is 290 out of 435 representatives. The 116th Congress is now a 47 Democrat, 53 GOP split  in the Senate, while the House is 235 Democrat, 199 GOP. See the challenge there? But there is apparently already a bill to reopen the government, why won’t they call it on the floor for a vote? Is the leadership afraid that it will pass both houses, and the president would look worse when he vetoes it?

James Fallows writes: “On December 18, Mitch McConnell’s GOP-run Senate passed, on a unanimous voice vote, a “clean” funding measure, to keep the government open and postpone funding fights about “the wall.” They did so with guidance from the White House that Donald Trump would go along. Then the right-wing mocking began; then immediate funding for the wall became an “emergency”; then Trump preferred a shutdown to appearing to “lose.” Mitch McConnell’s GOP of course switched right along with him—and against the measure all of its members had supported just days ago. One man’s insecurity, and his party’s compliance, are disrupting millions of lives.”

Well, maybe some of these folks really believed that a 30-foot wall works over a 35-foot ladder or 30-feet tunnel or maybe all their spinal bones are just made of jello. The larger public may soon start to realize that these elected representatives do not much care for 800,000 of their fellow Americans and their families. Or care much for their fellow citizens and their families who rely on the people and services that make our government work. We’ve taken for granted that the checks and balances in our system works … but take a look.

As this shutdown continues, we are struck at the high tolerance for people and their families to be put in great hardship, all for a fucking wall that Mexico was supposed to pay.

#