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Kilmer/Schatz Lead Group of 22 Lawmakers in Effort to Protect Federal Workers
From Losing Homes During Federal Government Shutdown

January 18, 2019 by TWN Staff
On the 20th day of a partial government shutdown, furloughed federal workers, contractors and union representatives gathered before marching to the White House to demand that President Trump reopen the government on Jan. 10, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

This week, a group of 22 lawmakers led by U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) introduced the Federal Employee Civil Relief Act. The new legislation protects federal workers and their families from foreclosures, evictions, and loan defaults during a government shutdown.

“Across 800,000 kitchen tables today, hardworking people are trying to figure out how to pay bills and provide for their families without an income,” said Representative Kilmer, who serves as Chair of the New Democrat Coalition in the House. “Federal workers are public servants, they deserve better than being treated like pawns in a negotiation. This shutdown is wrong, and it’s time to reopen the government – but until that happens, it’s Congress’s responsibility to help out the families most affected. This bill gives them some much needed relief.”

The bill addresses the real threat of federal workers losing their homes, falling behind on student loans and other bills, having their car repossessed, or losing their health insurance because they have been furloughed during a shutdown or required to work without pay. Modeled after the Servicemembers Relief Act, the Schatz-Kilmer legislation will prohibit landlords and creditors from taking action against federal workers or contractors who are hurt by the government shutdown and unable to pay rent or repay loans. The bill would also empower federal workers to sue creditors or landlords that violate this protection. The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act would safeguard workers impacted by a shutdown from the following:

  • Being evicted or foreclosed;
  • Having their car or other property repossessed;
  • Falling behind in student loan payments;
  • Falling behind in paying bills; or
  • Losing their insurance because of missed premiums.

“While the President and Senate Republicans struggle to get their act together, real people are suffering,” said Senator Schatz. “Right now, thousands of federal workers and their families are struggling to pay rent and make ends meet. It’s absolutely unacceptable. Our bill will protect federal workers and make sure they aren’t harmed because of a political stunt.”

The protection would last during, and 30 days following, a shutdown to give workers a chance to keep up with their bills. The partial government shutdown, now in its third week, hurts more than 800,000 federal workers in all 50 states.

“People who took an oath to serve their country as federal employees should not have to worry about being evicted, having their car repossessed or going further into debt because of a government shutdown,” said Tony Reardon, President of the National Treasury Employees Union. “I want to commend Sen. Schatz and Rep. Kilmer for having the foresight to introduce legislation that would protect the nation’s federal workforce, many of whom are suffering after nearly three weeks without pay. The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act would give frontline federal workers a reasonable amount of time to catch up on their bills once the shutdown ends and their income is restored. Federal employees around the country are grateful that there are members of Congress who are looking out for them in their time of need.”

“The International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) applauds Senator Schatz and Congressman Kilmer for authoring this critically important bill. This legislation will provide much needed relief to federal employees who may be facing civil actions against them due to a lapse in pay that has resulted because of the government shutdown. It is truly unfortunate that President Trump is using these civilian workers and their families as political pawns to achieve a political goal. The real life ramifications on these working Americans are hard choices between feeding their families, and meeting other financial obligations. The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act will provide impacted workers additional time after a shutdown to meet their financial obligations that would otherwise result in actions against them such as eviction, foreclosure and other civil claims. IFPTE endorses this bill, and urges all Senators to support it,” said Paul Shearon, International President of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.

Cosponsors of Schatz’s bill in the Senate include U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Mark Warner (D-Va.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.). Kilmer will introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives with the following co-sponsors: U.S. Representatives Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), Susie Lee (D-Nev.), Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (D-N.H.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Brendan Boyle (D-Penn.), and Katherine Clark (D-Mass.).

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