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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL)

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Rep. Stephenson Announces New Plan to Deliver State Financial Assistance to Furloughed Federal Employees

Friday, January 25, 2019

ST. PAUL, MN – In response to the federal government shutdown, Representative Zack Stephenson (DFL-Coon Rapids) and Senator Matt Little (DFL-Lakeville) are fighting for federal employees affected financially in Minnesota.

Both legislators have introduced bipartisan legislation that would allow for federal employees who are furloughed, or working without pay, to apply for interest- free personal loans.  Minnesota is home to over 17,000 federal employees and contractors, and over 6,000 are currently furloughed or required to work without pay because of the shutdown.   

“Today should be payday for thousands of federal employees across Minnesota,” Rep. Stephenson said. “Instead, workers are being forced to make impossible decisions about which bills to pay.  It’s time to release the hostages kept captive by the federal shutdown and give our federal workforce the financial security they’ve earned.” 

“These workers are protecting us against terrorists, defending our borders, keeping our food safe, cleaning the environment, and helping injured vets get their benefits,” Senator Little commented. “At least we can financially support these innocent families while they’re caught in the political crossfire.”

Celia Hahn, an Eagan resident, is a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Officer employed at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. She’s been working without pay since December 31 despite working regular shift hours, plus overtime.

“My situation is not unique,” said Hahn. “Like many others, I have contacted creditors to delay payments, and have drastically cut back on unnecessary spending. While I'll eventually receive back pay, it doesn't pay the bills now, and it doesn't make up for the stress, anxiety, and missed opportunities.”

“Since my last paycheck, I’ve had to hold my sons back from their winter sport activities- even their own birthday party,” added Hahn. “As a parent, how do you explain that to a 9 year old?”

 Under the terms of the bill, banks and other financial institutions can apply to the Commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to issue the zero-interest loans, and the State of Minnesota would guarantee the loans. The entire program must cease issuing loans the day after the federal government shut down ends. Workers are eligible for the zero-interest loans to replace their income up to $5,000 a month for a maximum of three months, if they have been furloughed or required to work without pay because of the federal government shut down which began on December 22, 2018. 

“Sunrise Banks is pleased to work with the state to provide assistance to federal workers during this time of hardship,” Rick Beeson, Executive Vice President of Sunrise Banks said. "Sunrise has a long history of supporting our community and will work to assist residents during this difficult period of uncertainty.”

The federal government shutdown is the longest in history. The House DFL Majority on January 17 sent a letter to President Trump respectfully requesting he end the federal government shutdown. The letter has been mailed to the White House and members of the press received a copy Thursday evening upon its release. View the letter here.

“The ongoing federal government shutdown — the longest shutdown in the history of our nation — is hurting the lives of real people, and the consequences will only grow more dire with time,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler. “The Minnesota House of Representatives is ready to help those affected and mitigate the negative impacts of this unnecessary federal shutdown.”

The bill has been scheduled for a public hearing in the House Commerce Committee for Tuesday, January 29.

 

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