January 18, 2019

Amid gov. shutdown, CT to provide interest-free loans to fed. workers

HBJ Photo | Joe Cooper
HBJ Photo | Joe Cooper
Connecticut state Capitol in Hartford.
Photo | Associated Press
Gov. Ned Lamont at his inauguration ceremony on Jan. 9.

Day 28 of the ongoing partial government shutdown, the longest in the country's history, brought a glimmer of hope for federal employees in Connecticut working without pay.

Gov. Ned Lamont and state Democratic and Republican leaders on Friday announced they reached a bipartisan agreement to provide interest-free loans for federal employees working without pay during the partial government shutdown.

State officials said they adopted "emergency" legislation that allows non-essential and essential workers affected by the government shutdown to receive compensation through a public-private partnership between the state, private banks and credit unions.

The program, supported by the Connecticut Bankers Association, was first announced on Tuesday.

Officials said the bill is currently being drafted and the Senate and House are expected to vote on the measure during a joint session on Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Under the legislation, federal staffers working without pay will be eligible to receive interest-free loans provided by either the banks or credit unions and backed by the state. The initial loans will supply workers with up to a month's worth of net pay, or up to $5,000.

Those interested in receiving the loans are urged to contact their bank or credit union to determine whether their financial institutions are participating in the program, officials said. Otherwise, loans may be available through other banks or credit unions.

If the shutdown continues, participating banks and the state will work with affected employees for additional funds, state officials said.

Lamont has estimated between 1,200 to 1,500 federal workers, including air traffic controllers and certain Environmental Protection Agency workers, in Connecticut could be eligible to obtain the funds.

In his 10th day as governor, Lamont in a statement Friday called the financial assistance program an "innovative partnership" and commended the participating companies, which includes Webster Bank.

"Connecticut's business community is stepping up to the plate to help our state's citizens, who through no fault of their own are finding themselves unable to pay for essential bills to support their families," the governor said.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano applauded Lamont on Friday for "thinking outside the box and developing a collaborative approach" to support Connecticut's impacted federal workers.

After announcing the public-private partnership on Tuesday, several other Connecticut lenders have also offered low-interest loans for the state's federal employees working without pay.

Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, the state's public college and university system overseers, have also directed the system's 17 schools to temporarily suspend tuition bills for affected students, which include federal workers and their dependents, until the government shutdown ends.

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