Maui News

Legislation Reintroduced to Protect Federal Workers from Falling Behind on Bills During Shutdowns

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PC: courtesy office of US Sen. Brian Schatz.

US Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and US Representative Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) reintroduced legislation to protect federal workers and their families from foreclosures, evictions, and loan defaults during a government shutdown. The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act would enable government employees and contractors to postpone payment obligations during a shutdown and for 30 days afterward.

“Federal workers are dedicated public servants who inspect our food and water, maintain our parks, and care for our veterans. The last choice they should have to make is between feeding their families and keeping the lights on,” said Senator Schatz. 

“No family should be left struggling to pay their bills and provide for their families because of the federal government’s failure to do its job,” said Representative Kilmer. “Federal workers aren’t Democrats or Republicans when they show up for work. They are public servants that protect our sailors through their work at the shipyard, that prepare timber sales in the federal forests, that welcome visitors to national parks, that care for our veterans, that ensure citizens can get the services they need, and that keep us safe.  We should have their backs. That’s why I’m leading legislation with Senator Schatz to ensure that if federal workers in our region have to deal with another government shutdown, their finances – and their families – are protected.”


During the December 2018 government shutdown, many federal workers received a pay stub with zero dollars on it. This bill addresses the real threat of federal workers and contractors 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. The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act would protect impacted workers from:

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

This protection would last during a shutdown and 30 days following a shutdown to give workers a chance to keep up with their bills. In each of these situations, it would enable these workers to apply to a court to temporarily postpone payment obligations or eviction or foreclosure actions. This would allow courts to weigh the equities of both parties to the contract in deciding how contractual obligations should be treated.

The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act is cosponsored by US Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). It is cosponsored in the House of Representatives by Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), and Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.)


This legislation is supported by the American Federation of Government Employees, National Treasury Employees Union, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.


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