Credit unions rush to support members hit by the US government shutdown

‘A government shutdown doesn’t just affect the government, it affects the lives and wallets of the hard-working men and women that serve our community and country’

As the US government shutdown continues, credit unions are working to help members who are struggling to make ends meet.

President Donald Trump began the partial shutdown on 22 December, leaving government employees without pay. He says the move will last “as long as it takes” to get Congress to agree to his demand for billions of dollars in funding to build a wall along the US-Mexican border.

The US media has reported measures by credit unions across the country to help members through the crisis, which has seen 800,000 federal employees furloughed or working without pay.

Credit Union Journal likened the measures to response plans used during hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters.

FedChoice Federal Credit Union, which serves 25,000 civilian government employees, is waiving fees for the early withdrawal of funds and offering lower rate loans,

And on its furlough page it is giving members the chance to share their stories of the shutdown.

One wrote: “My insurance premium is $600 per month & my sons Insulin & pump supplies are an additional $600 per quarter.  Barely making it.  Now I’ll be going to work…..paid in the future.”

Another said: “I am a single mom, single income. If my pay from last two weeks shows up I have enough to pay bills, but not buy food. We live direct deposit to direct deposit, & something vital is always breaking – car brakes, stove, furnace. Nothing goes until this is over.”

A third comment read: “My husband is active duty Coast Guard. Everyone thinks the military is getting paid during the shutdown, but the Coast Guard is facing no pay on the 1st due to being DHS and not DoD. We live in NYC, pay over $2K/month in rent, have a toddler and one on the way.”

Navy Federal Credit Union – the world’s biggest co-op – has announced plans to cover direct deposits for eligible members during the shutdown.

“Our members deserve peace of mind during a government shutdown and eligible members can register to get some relief,” said Navy Federal’s SVP of debit card and fund services Tynika Wilson. “Public service is a defining characteristic of our membership, and this is the right thing to do.”

First Command Financial Services, whose members include Coast Guard workers, is offering interest-free payday advances, while Democracy Federal Credit Union is offering a short-term emergency loan with 0% interest.

And the Credit Union National Association (Cuna) has listed details of several initiatives by member organisations, including emergency interest free loans,  instalment loan deferments and budget counselling.

“A government shutdown doesn’t just affect the government, it affects the lives and wallets of the hard-working men and women that serve our community and country,” Bill Birnie, president and chief executive of Californian credit union Frontwav. “That’s why we’re 100% committed to fight for our members through these uncertain times.”

But although government employees are eligible for this kind of support from the credit union sector, contractors might not be – as they will not necessarily receive backpay when the shutdown ends.