How Cities and States Are Easing the Impact of the Government Shutdown

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Ginger Livingston Sanders /

The U.S. is now experiencing the longest government shutdown in history, and only a psychic knows when or how it will end.

President Donald Trump has said he will keep the government shut down until congressional Democrats give in and pledge $5.7 billion for the wall he wants built on the U.S.-Mexico border, The New York Times reported this week.

Nine federal agencies — including the Federal Aviation Administration and Environmental Protection Agency — have been shut down since Dec. 22, The Washington Post reports. In those closed agencies, only employees considered “essential,” such as air traffic controllers, report to work.

While working, however, these federal employees won’t see a paycheck until the shutdown ends. Still, there’s some good news: Some states and cities are trying to ease the financial burden they’re facing.

Following is a sampling of the ways that states and municipalities are offering help.

Arizona and Utah: Open parks

Don’t think you can forget about the furloughs by soaking up the beauty of a national park: Many of them have closed due to the shutdown.

But the iconic Grand Canyon National Park remains accessible as part of Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s Grand Canyon Protection Plan, which he instituted after the federal government shutdown that occurred in early 2018. And the Utah Office of Tourism’s site notes that several national parks in the state remain open, although services are limited.

Denver: Mortgage help

In Denver, certain workers can apply for financial assistance to help pay their mortgages, the municipal government announced on Monday. The program will provide up to two months of mortgage payments — or a maximum of $5,000 — for those who meet income and other requirements.

And here’s a novel twist: This program isn’t just for laid-off feds, but applies to other qualified applicants who’ve recently gone through “unexpected changes in their employment status,” the municipality says.

Norfolk, Virginia: Payment plans

The City of Norfolk announced on Jan. 11 that it’s offering payment plans to furloughed federal workers upon request. Payment plans are available for water bills, personal property taxes and real estate taxes.

Nevada: Possible tuition deferral

Parents of college students may be wondering how they’ll pay their children’s tuition when their government paycheck reads $0.00.

On Friday, the Nevada Board of Regents — which oversees the state’s higher-education system — will discuss temporarily deferring tuition and registration fees at Nevada’s public colleges and universities for students affected by the shutdown, the Las Vegas Sun reports.

Without the deferral, such bills will begin to come due on Saturday.

Maryland: Tax relief

Furloughed employees in Maryland who owe the state taxes may be granted reduced or suspended payments during the shutdown. Affected workers, including federal contractors and federal employees working without pay, who have Maryland tax obligations can call 410-260-4020 or email [email protected], the state said.

More help

Assistance isn’t limited to just city and state organizations.

Some financial institutions — including Washington Federal, the Navy Federal Credit Union and U.S. Bank — are offering no- or low-interest loans to those affected by the shutdown.

Museums from Minnesota to Florida to Oregon are offering free admission to furloughed employees who show their identification. Details vary by location — check with your local museums.

In Hawaii, the memorial to those who died at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 — the USS Arizona Memorial — remains open, thanks to support from Hawaii Tourism and the public.

Individual restaurants and bars are offering deals to furloughed workers, too. They include Mad Fox Brewing Co. in Falls Church, Virginia. According to an Instagram post from the establishment, not only do federal workers and contractors receive a 20 percent discount on food, but “members of Congress (are) charged 20 percent more!!”

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