Federal Shutdown Community Resources

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2019 Federal Shutdown Resources

Two weeks ago, at midnight on December 21st 2018, the federal government entered a partial shutdown, with the legislative and executive branch unable to come to a compromise on a funding bill for the federal government. The shutdown is currently affecting around one fourth of federal employees, with 420,000 reporting to work without pay and 380,000 furloughed.

For more information from the White House on instructions to agencies for shutdown procedures, please see here. For information on specific agency shutdown plans, please see here.

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.

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

Team Moulton in your community:

Congressman Moulton’s team will be holding our next office hours for anyone affected by the shutdown at:

January 17th: Beverly Public Library, Barnet Gallery, 3-6pm.

We will have printed copies of the materials, and will be happy to talk through how we can help. For more information about our office hours or this guide, please email Anne.Meeker@mail.house.gov or call our team at 978-531-1669.

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 one 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: 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

Hanscom Federal Credit Union, headquartered on Hanscom Air Force Base, is offering a 0% Annual Percentage Rate (APR) LifeLine Loan with a 60-day term, up to 100% of the member’s net monthly pay or $5,000, whichever is less. For members who need more than 60 days to repay, we can convert the loan into an installment loan with a 12-month term at a low fixed rate of 8.49% APR. In addition to our loan, we are waiving penalties for premature withdrawals on term share certificates and will allow qualified members to skip consumer loan payments with no fee with our “Skip a Payment” option.

Hanscom FCU also offers tools to help both members and non-members of our not-for-profit credit union manage a reduction in income due to events like this government shutdown. Our Financial First Aid kit is a free, downloadable guide containing worksheets and advice for prioritizing expenses and evaluating resources. It can be downloaded here.

The City of Boston Credit Union is offering up to $5,000 at 0% for 60 days, skip-a-payment, early withdrawal fee waiver

The Merrimack Valley Credit Union is offering skip-a-payment on loans for 60-days

The Service Credit Union is offering personal loan up to $3,000 at 0% for 6 months, additional individualized financial solutions.

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

Furlough relief loans are available to furloughed employees during the shutdown through the Congressional Federal Credit Union, including relief lines of credit, personal loans, line of credit limit increases, and payment deferment on existing loans. For assistance with any of these please visit the website linked above or use the phone number 1-800-491-2328.

Navy Federal Credit Union is 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.

If you are a member of the American Federation of Government Employees, you may also be eligible for several financial benefits, including personal loans and credit counseling. For more information, please click here.

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

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.

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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