Federal Shutdown Community Resources

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2019 Federal Shutdown Resources

Breaking 2:30pm 1/25: President Trump agreed Friday to re-open the government for three weeks while negotiations proceed. This will mean that federal employees will receive back pay and leave as quickly as possible, regardless of scheduled pay period. We will update this page as we have further information on when furloughed employees can expect to receive that back pay.

If you are a federal employee furloughed or working without pay during the shutdown, or if you are working with an agency that has been affected by the shutdown, please see the resources below, or call our office at 978-531-1669 to discuss what our casework team can do to assist you.

Quick links:

If you belong to an organization listed here and you would like us to edit or remove your organization’s link, or if you would like to suggest a resource to be included in this page, please call our office at 978-531-1669 or email Anne.Meeker@mail.house.gov.

Table of Contents

Federal Employee Benefits:

I’m a furloughed employee–what happens to my pay/leave/benefits?

The Chief Human Capital Officers Council has released a fact sheet on what happens to benefits for federal employees during a furlough. For more information, please see this link.

Leave: leave previously scheduled during the shutdown is canceled, so won’t be charged. Per OPM, “use-it-or-lose-it” leave must also be restored to you. Congress will determine whether furloughed employees will accrue leave for the period of the shutdown. For federal employees required to continue working, leave will be accrued, but will not be available until the end of the shutdown.

Health care: Federal Employee Health benefits will continue and employees’ portion of the premiums will be withheld from retroactive pay.

Please also see OPM’s guidance on employee health care

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAFEDS): Furloughed employees will remain enrolled in FSAFEDS, but you can’t be reimbursed for health care expenses from your FSA until you are paid again. Dependent care expenses can be reimbursed up to the amount in your dependent care account as long as the expenses is to let you or your dependent work, look for work, or attend school full-time.

Dental/Vision: “If the lapse period is less than two consecutive pay periods, your premiums will accumulate and be withheld later when the lapse ends. If you do not receive pay for two consecutive pay periods, BENEFEDS will begin to bill you directly for premium payments.”

Federal Long Term Care Insurance: If the shutdown is shorter than three pay periods, your premiums will be withheld from your retroactive pay If the shutdown lasts longer than three pay periods, you will be billed directly for premiums.

TSP: 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.”

General assistance for furloughed employees

Massachusetts 2-1-1

If you have an eviction notice in hand or documentation that you are about to have a car repossessed or unable to pay for food and medication, MA 211 may be able to help. MA 211 is a free service connecting Massachusetts residents to health and human services in their community. For help, simply dial 2-1-1 from a Massachusetts phone to be connected to an operator 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance
Furloughed federal employees are eligible for unemployment benefits in Massachusetts. To file a claim, you will need to provide your social security number, contact information, and information about your employment history for the past fifteen months.

For more information on filing a claim, please click here or call the TeleClaim center at 617-626-6800.

If you are concerned that there may be a problem or a delay with your application, please call our office at 978-531-1669 and we’ll be happy to connect you with your state senator or representative to check on your application.

FAQ on unemployment applications:

The Department of Unemployment Assistance was kind enough to provide answers to the most common questions we’ve been receiving on applying for benefits. These are below:

Q: In the list of options for why someone is applying for unemployment, what should a furloughed/working-without-pay employee select?

A: Lack of work

Q: Some employees noted that people receiving unemployment benefits must show that they are looking for work—is that still the case for federal employees who are technically still fully-employed?

A: Yes: they must look for work to be eligible for benefits, the requirement is at least one work search activity on three different days during the week.

Q: How long can a furloughed federal employee stay on unemployment (assuming the shutdown is indefinite…)?

A: The weekly pay rate and duration of an unemployment is based on their wages in the last 4 quarters. In Massachusetts the maximum duration is 30 weeks.

Q: What happens if someone applies and the government re-opens before their application is processed?

A: The claimant would collect for the eligible weeks prior to returning to work.

Q: Some IRS employees have had issues where they are being asked for documents about their employment that they can’t get while the agency is shut down. Does that sound correct, and are there any work-arounds established?

A: The company that provides wage and separation information to DUA for furloughed employees is not a federal agency and not affected by the furlough. There have not been issues getting this information so far.

Q: I applied for unemployment but my application just says ‘pending’–what’s happening?

A: When you apply for unemployment, a form is sent to the employer (or for the federal government a company that handles unemployment) and they have 10 days to respond. Claimants are also sent a form to complete and send in along with pay stubs and information about their wages–you must complete this form to complete your claim. If you are within that ten-day period, the company is probably still working. If you are beyond the ten-day period, please give us a call and we’ll be happy to check on your claim for you.

Q: If/when Congress approves retroactive pay for these employees, what steps do they need to take to pay it back? Will they be contacted proactively?

A: There will be information on the web site available.  In the past the claimants have been issued an overpayment notice and may pay on line or through the mail.

Q: Where can a furloughed employee apply in person?

A: We encourage claimants to apply on line, they may better manage their account, this is the web page that they may call 617-626-6800 to schedule a call back or file a claim, there is the Boston Walk in center.  https://www.mass.gov/orgs/department-of-unemployment-assistance

Q: If someone works two jobs and they have just been furloughed from their primary job with the federal government, are they still eligible for unemployment?

A: As long as they meet all eligibility requirements.

Shutdown effects on federal agencies

I’ve heard the SNAP budget will run out in February–what will happen to my benefits?

The MA DTA has also provided some updated guidance on what you can expect to happen with your SNAP benefits this month: SNAP benefits will be issued for February between Jan 17th and 20th. If someone needs to take action on their SNAP case (e.g. a recertification or interim report), they will need to get that paperwork back to SNAP as quickly as possible to ensure that they will make the cutoff for benefit eligibility. For more information, see this link.

We’re expecting that this will lead to some understandable confusion – for up to date information, please keep checking Mass.gov/DTA or call the assistance hotline at (877) 382-2363.

My daughter/son is supposed to go to college but they can’t complete their FAFSA application right now. What’s happening?

The Department of Education has dropped the requirement for IRS tax transcripts or non-filing letters in order to complete financial aid applications. Instead, they will accept signed 2016 tax returns or a signed statement from students that they did not file instead. This will resolve the majority of issues, with the remaining issues coming from Social Security or Selective Service matches.

Legal Assistance for Housing and Credit

If you are in danger of eviction, foreclosure, or repossession of a vehicle due to the shutdown, the agencies below offer legal resources that may be able to assist you.

Mass.gov offers several referrals services to private attorneys and low-income legal services. For more information, please click here.

NSCAP Home Law program
NSCAP coordinates with pro bono attorneys to provide lawyer-for-a-day services to those in danger of eviction. For more information, reach out to NSCAP at the phone number below:
North Shore Community Action Programs
119 Rear Foster Street, Building 13, Peabody, MA 01960
(978) 531-0767

Northeast Legal Aid
Northeast Legal Aid is a low-income legal assistance service available in the North Shore. NELA’s areas of practice include housing and foreclosure law, public benefits, and elder protection. To request legal services, go to the link above, call 978-458-1465, or visit one of the offices below:

Lawrence Office
50 Island Street
Suite 203A
Lawrence, Massachusetts 01840
Monday – Thursday: 9AM – 5PM, Fridays: 9AM-1PM

Lowell Office
35 John Street
Suite 302
Lowell, Massachusetts 01852
Monday – Thursday: 9AM – 5PM, Fridays: 9AM-1PM

Lynn Office
181 Union Street
Suite 201A
Lynn, Massachusetts 01901
Monday – Thursday: 9AM – 5PM, Fridays: 9AM-1PM

Harvard Law School

Harvard Law School offers some low-cost legal assistance by law students under supervision. For more information, please click the link above or call HLS at the number below.
Legal Services Center
122 Boylston St
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130
(617) 522-3003

Financial Assistance

Several financial institutions in our district have offered low-interest loans for employees affected by the government shutdown. For more information, please see below:

Bank of America: offering assistance to customers affected by the shutdown on a case-by-case basis. To learn more, call (844) 219-0690.

Bank Gloucester: offering assistance including a payment deferral plan, waiving penalties on early deposit withdrawal, or other financial assistance to customers affected by the shutdown on a case-by-case basis. To learn more, call 978-283-8200.

Beverly Bank: offering assistance to members affected by the shutdown on a case-by-case basis. To learn more, call 978-922-0857.

Cape Ann Savings Bank: offering to waive early withdrawal penalties on certificates of deposit, and financial counseling for customers who are affected by the government shutdown on a case-by-case basis. To learn more, call 978-283-0246.

City of Boston Credit Union: offering up to $5,000 at 0% for 60 days, skip-a-payment, and early withdrawal fee waiver. Contact information for local branches available here.

Digital Federal Credit Union: offering assistance to members affected by the shutdown on a case-by-case basis. To learn more, call 1-800-328-8797 ext 3733.

Eastern Bank: offering payment assistance programs including a 0% APR loan for three months and payment deferral plans; also offering applications for loans that do not require SBA funding during the shutdown. For more information, call 1-800-EASTERN/327-8376.

Congressional Federal Credit Union: offering a Relief Line of Credit 0.0% APR for 60 days, options to defer payment on an existing loan, waiving early certificate withdrawal fees, line-of-credit limit increases, and financial coaching. To learn more, call 800-491-2328.

Hanscom Federal Credit Union: offering a 0/0% APR LifeLine loan up to 60 days of one month’s payroll or up to $5,000, waiving certificate withdrawal fees during the furlough, and options for skip-a-pay on existing loans. Hanscom FCU also offers a Financial First Aid kit, a free, downloadable guide containing worksheets and advice for prioritizing expenses and evaluating resources. It can be downloaded here. For more information, call 800-656-4328.

Merrimack Valley Credit Union: offering assistance to members affected by the shutdown on a case-by-case basis. To learn more, call 800-356-0067.

Navy Federal Credit Union: offering 0% APR loans during the government shutdown for active duty members of the U.S. Coast Guard and some civilian members. For more information on how to get a loan through Navy Federal Credit Union, please click here or call 1-888-842-6328.

People’s United Bank: offering waiver of late and overdraft fees, revised loan repayment plans, forbearance, loan modification, and interest-only payments. To learn more, call 1-800-894-0300.

Salem Five: offering a forbearance plan of up to 3 months, waiving any late fees, and suspension of any negative credit impact; additionally, the Bank will waive bank charges such as overdraft fees and prepayment penalties on certificates of deposit. For more information, call 800-850-5000.

Service Credit Union: offering personal loans up to $6,000 at 0% APR, waived certificate withdrawal penalties, and options to defer current loans for up to 90 days. For more information, call 800.936.7730.

Charities

Beverly Bootstraps

Beverly Bootstraps
35 Park Street
Beverly, Ma 01915
P: 978-927-1561
Basic Needs, Education & Training, Case Management and Financial Assistance

Catholic Charities North
Catholic Charities offers emergency financial assistance, education and employment programs, and family support. Call ahead to verify hours and available assistance.

Lynn:
Catholic Charities North
117 N. Common Street
Lynn, MA 01902
P: 781-593-2312
Basic Needs, Education & Training, Family Support, Counseling, Development & Volunteers

Gloucester:
Catholic Charities North at Gloucester
60 Prospect Street
Gloucester, MA 01930
P: 978-283-3055
Basic Needs

Salem:
Catholic Charities North at Salem
280 Washington Street
Salem, MA 01970
P: 978-740-6923
Basic Needs, Family Support, Counseling

Energy Assistance

Columbia Gas is offering several flexible payment options for customers facing financial hardship due to the government shutdown. For more information, call 1-800-688-6160 or to go columbiagasma.com.

National Grid is also working with customers to suspend accounts for a month to prevent collection calls, and establishing an affordable payment plan when the government reopens. For more information, please call the Northborough office at 1-800-322-3223 and ask to speak to Customer Care about your options.

Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund
For those struggling to pay heating costs, the MA Good Neighbor Energy Fund (run through the Salvation Army) can offer temporary assistance. See below for sites and contact information.

Lawrence Corps
250 Haverhill Street, Lawrence, MA 01842-0652
ph. (978) 682-8038 • fax: (978) 687-8235

Lowell Corps
150 Appleton Street, Lowell, MA 01853-1456
ph. (978) 458-3396 • fax: (978) 458-4923

Lynn Corps
1 Franklin Street, Lynn, MA 01902-4105
ph. (781) 598-0673 • fax: (781) 586-9327

Newburyport Corps
40 Water Street, Newburyport, MA 01950-2751
ph. (978) 465-0883 • fax: (978) 465-4300

North Shore Corps
93 North Street, Salem, MA 01970-3963
ph. (978) 744-5181 • fax: (978) 741-1159

Salvation Army of Massachusetts
The Salvation Army offers a variety of emergency assistance services. For more information, please enter your zip code at the link above, or call the statewide office at Tel. 339.502.5900.

Child Care

The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care offers limited vouchers for families in need of assistance paying for child care. Eligibility is limited to households at less than 50% of the State Median Income. To check your eligibility or apply, call Mass 211 (see above) or contact your local Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agency.

Catholic Charities North
Catholic Charities offers emergency financial assistance, education and employment programs, and family support. Call ahead to verify hours and available assistance.

Lynn Child Care Center
37 N. Federal Street
Lynn, MA 01905
P: 781-598-2759
Services: Center-based and Family-based Child Care

Peabody Child Care Center
13 Pulaski Street
Peabody, MA 01960
P: 978-532-6860
Services: Center-based and Family-based Child Care

Malden Child Care Center
77 Salem Street
Malden
P: 781-397-1556

Food assistance

Assistance enrolling in food assistance programs

Project Bread offers free assistance with enrolling in food stamps and finding food resources in your community. For assistance, call the FoodSource hotline at the number above. You can also learn more at www.GettingSnap.org, or at the website linked below.

Project Bread
145 Border St,
Boston, MA 02128
Phone: 1-800-645-8333

Beverly Bootstraps
35 Park Street
Beverly, MA 01915
Phone: 978-927-1561

Beverly Bootstraps is offering case management services helping federal employees affected by the shutdown. For more information, please see the form here.

Open Door Food Pantry
28 Emerson Avenue
Gloucester, MA 01930
Phone: (978) 283-6776.

Food pantries

North MA06:
Our Neighbors’ Table
194 Main Street
Amesbury, MA
Phone: (978) 388-1907

Open Door Food Pantry
28 Emerson Ave.
Gloucester, MA 01930
Phone: (978) 283-6776 (Serves Cape Ann)

00 Southern Heights
Ipswich, MA
Phone: (978) 283-6776 (Serves Ipswich, Hamilton, Wenham, Rowley, Topsfield and Boxford)

Beverly Boostraps

35 Park Street

Beverly, MA 01915

Office: 978-927-1561

West MA06:
St. Martha’s Food Pantry
242 Hampshire St.,
Lawrence, MA 01840
Phone: (978) 332-5013

Central/South MA06:

Acord Food Pantry
69 Willow St, South
Hamilton, MA 01982
Phone: (978) 468-7424

Danvers People to People Food Pantry
12 Sylvan St,
Danvers, MA 01923
Phone: (978) 739-4188

Pet food assistance

The MSPCA plans to distribute dog and cat food and cat litter on Saturday 1/19 between 9 and 11:30 a.m. at its animal care and adoption centers in Jamaica Plain, Methuen and Centerville. Anyone who can’t make it Saturday but is in need should email adoption@mspca.org.

Insulin Assistance

Eli Lilly’s Lilly Diabetes Solution Center assists people who need help paying for insulin, including people who are in the deductible phase of a high-deductible insurance plan. Operators are available to discuss options for assistance affording insulin 9am-8pm EST at 833-808-1234.

Information for Veterans

From the VA:

Education benefits: VA has over 1,100 employees processing GI Bill® benefits for beneficiaries. VA’s Education Service is working overtime during this critical enrollment period so that GI Bill® payments are issued correctly and on time. Anyone facing a financial hardship due to the furlough or a delayed GI Bill® payment can contact the Education Call Center at 1-888-GIBILL-1 for assistance between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Central Standard Time, Monday through Friday.

Home loans: VA has encouraged loan servicers to be flexible in dealing with borrowers who have lost income due to the shutdown. In addition to providing assistance through loan modifications or other loss mitigation options, VA loan servicers can waive late fees and suspend negative credit-bureau reporting. VA can still guaranty loans if a Veteran borrower has been furloughed or otherwise negatively impacted by the partial shutdown. Veterans who have questions about their VA home loan or Specially Adapted Housing benefits can contact VA staff toll free at 877-827-3702. See https://www.va.gov/housing-assistance/home-loans/trouble-making-payments/

Overpayments/VBA debt: If you have a VBA debt and need temporary financial relief, contact the Debt Management Center (DMC) at 800-827-0648 to request assistance. The DMC can stay or suspend collection activity on your account until April 1, 2019.

VA Community Care, Hardship Resources: There are options for Veterans who suffer from difficult financial circumstances and struggle to pay VA copayments. More information is available at https://www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/revenue_ops/Financial_Hardship.asp. For a myriad of focused financial assistance and hardship services, visit https://www.va.gov/finance/policy/vfffa.asp.

Support from Local Businesses

YMCA scholarship

The North Shore YMCA has offered to work with furloughed federal employees to offer scholarships to cover the cost of a YMCA membership while the government is shut down. To learn more, visit the Lynn, Melrose, Peabody, or Saugus branches and ask to speak with the branch director about the scholarship program.

Restaurants/Entertainment

Plan to bring a federal ID or pay stub to take advantage of these offers:

The Friendly Toast is offering free entrees and specials to furloughed workers .

City Winery Boston is offering free flatbread to furloughed employees.

Kings is offering two free bowling games to furloughed employees.

The Boston Symphony Orchestra is offering furloughed employees two tickets (subject to availability) from Jan 17-Jan 29th.

Other organizations

The Village Works is offering free use of its workspace this month to furloughed employees. To learn more, email hello@thevillageworks.

How Can I Help?

Many of the charitable organizations and food pantries listed above are welcoming donations!

Donation options to assist active duty members of the U.S Coast Guard stationed at the Gloucester Coast Guard Station (Courtesy of the City of Gloucester, MA):
Food donations: At this time, please do not bring any food donations to the Gloucester Coast Guard Station. All food donations should be directed to the Open Door Food Pantry , located at 28 Emerson Avenue in Gloucester.

Gift Card Donations: Gift cards to specific stores such as grocery stores, gas stations, general merchandise (Target or Walmart) and monetary gift cards (Visa, Mastercard or American Express) in any denomination are needed. These can be sent to American Legion Post 3, P.O. Box 122. Gloucester, MA, VFW Post 1624 or dropped off at the Open Door, 28 Emerson Ave., Gloucester, MA 01930.

Monetary Donations: Monetary donations (check or cash) will be collected at the VFW, American Legion Post 3, P.O. Box 122, Gloucester, MA 01930 or at the Gloucester Fund (45 Middle Street, Gloucester, MA). As a reminding, any monetary donations must include a reference USCG.

Assisting Gloucester Active Duty Coast Guard learn more, visit the Lynn, Melrose, Peabody, or Saugus branches and ask to speak with the branch director about the scholarship program.

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