Furloughed by the Shutdown? Banks and Credit Unions Offer Help

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Financial institutions are giving special consideration to furloughed federal employees -- offering loans and delayed payments and waiving fees.

As 800,000 federal workers go without a paycheck this week, banks are offering to smooth out the financial bumps caused by congressional inaction.

TD Bank is offering a loan of up to $1,000 to customers directly affected by the shutdown — interest-free and without fees, CNNMoney says. The bank is also offering mortgage assistance and promising to reimburse credit card late fees. “Customers just need to show their furlough papers, government ID and previous two pay stubs,” and have an account in good standing, CNNMoney says.

Capital One is pitching its financial hardship program for government employees. That plan may allow some to defer payments and will waive fees for out-of-network ATMs or late payments. Other large banks including Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citi, and U.S. Bank have said “they will work with impacted workers on a case-by-case basis and encourage customers to call them directly,” CNNMoney says.

Small banks may cut furloughed workers some slack, too. Alabama-based Cadence Bank is giving furloughed workers a one-month extension on loan payments and waiving related fees on request, AL.com reports. And while terms vary, dozens of credit unions are offering assistance for furloughed workers, the Des Moines Register says. Both the Credit Union National Association and the National Association of Federal Credit Unions are trying to keep track of which credit unions are helping, apparently in order to make the information easier for customers to find.

Hyundai is even offering furloughed employees a break on car payments. Current owners who financed through Hyundai Finance America can delay making payments until they’re back to work, while those who buy a car this month get a 90-day deferment.

Furloughed workers may also be eligible for unemployment compensation.

“In general, for workers to be eligible they must have lost their job through no fault of their own, not quit or have been fired, and must have been employed long enough to meet state qualifications,” The Wall Street Journal says. Claims should be filed in the jurisdiction where employees worked, not necessarily where they live. Contact information for every state can be found here.

But it could be a while before employees receive unemployment benefits. Many states won’t allow people to file immediately, although furloughed workers in Maryland and Washington, D.C., already can, the WSJ says. Meanwhile, processing might be delayed because of the shutdown.

Because these workers have no guarantee of back pay — Congress has to explicitly authorize that — it could be worth doing. But if Congress does offer retroactive pay, many states will require the unemployment benefits to be repaid.

Stacy Johnson

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