Feds to furloughed workers: Try bartering for rent

Author: CBS Moneywatch
Published: Updated:
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The agency that oversees federal workers has some advice for the 800,000 furloughed workers who are entering a seventh day without pay: Try bartering for your rent payment.

The Office of Personnel Management on Thursday provided sample letters that furloughed workers can send to their landlords in case they can’t make their rent payments. One of the letters suggests the cash-strapped workers could barter handyman services in exchange for rent money.

“I would like to discuss with you the possibility of trading my services to perform maintenance (e.g. painting, carpentry work) in exchange for partial rent payments,” the letter states. It also asks the landlords if they would consider a partial rent reduction because of the government shutdown.

The partial government shutdown, which began on Saturday after negotiations hit an impasse over President Donald Trump’s $5 billion demand for funds to construct a wall along the southwestern border, is likely to extend into the new year after members of the House of Representatives were notified that no votes are expected to take place this week. Both the Senate and House reconvened Thursday after the Christmas break, but few lawmakers showed up on Capitol Hill.

“Consult with your personal attorney”

OPM also advised furloughed workers to “consult with your personal attorney” if they need legal advice in dealing with creditors. That earned some mocking replies on Twitter, with some pointing out that federal workers of modest means aren’t likely to retain their own attorneys and that hiring an attorney would add to their mounting bills.

“Speaking as one of those ‘Feds,’ it’s nice of you to offer meaningless letters and suggest – while we have no pay coming in – that we incur legal expenses as well while we descend into debt. Thanks so much,” one respondent wrote in response.

The OPM also advised workers to speak with creditors or landlords before sending a letter because “just sending a letter may not be very effective.”

In the meantime, workers say they are worried about paying their bills. Ernie Johnson, a 51-year-old geologist with the Bureau of Land Management, told CBS that he’s rethinking his budget and mulling over his options if the shutdown persists.

“I have a landlord who will let me out of my lease in February should it come to that,” he wrote in an email to CBS News. “I have a few places I could crash, and it’s just me.”

He added, “For the single moms and dads out there who have mortgages, or landlords not so kind, I fear for them as they struggle with not knowing.”

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