Financial relief options available for federal employees, government contractors

Banks, utility companies, local governments will work with furloughed employees

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist, Amanda Castro - Reporter/Anchor

ORLANDO, Fla. - Hundreds of thousands of federal employees and government contractors are in their third week of working without pay or waiting to return to work.

Central Florida governments, utility companies and credit unions have started programs to help the workers affected by the federal government shutdown as they go through their last paychecks. There are also options to defer cellphone, internet and cable payments.

Below is a list of deferred payment options, loans and other opportunities for financial relief while the shutdown continues.

Utility companies offer payment extensions

Cities, counties are offering deferred utility payments for employees going without pay during the partial government shutdown.

Orange County Utility officials said the county is tracking furloughed federal employee customers who may be unable to pay their utility bills.

"We will be waiving late fees and setting up payment arrangements as required," Orange County Utilities spokesperson Jamie Floer said. 

The county also offers an assistance program called “Orange Cares 4 You” for customers who qualify. Customers with any questions should contact customer service line during business hours at 407-836-5515.

Florida Power and Light offers payment assistance for customers. Click here to request a payment extension.

Orlando Utilities Commissions customers can make payment extension arrangements by calling 407-423-9018 in Orlando/Orange County or 407-957-7373 in St. Cloud/Osceola County.

In Lake County, the city of Groveland is deferring all city utility feeds and will not disconnect or charge late fees for employees of any closed federal agencies during the shutdown.

Any residents who wish to have their payments deferred are asked to bring verification of their employment to the Groveland City Hall at 156 S. Lake Ave.
 
Any residents who have questions about the utility payment deferment can call 352-429-2141, ext. 239.

Minneola city officials said the city will defer water payments and waive all late fees until the shutdown is over. Residents affected by the shutdown should contact the utility billing department for more information.

Kissimmee Utility Authority is working with any federal worker who may need additional flexibility in paying their bill because of the government shutdown, KUA spokesperson Chris Gent said. Customers are instructed to contact customer service center at 407-933-9800.

Food and essentials

The shutdown is putting a strain on local food banks with more community members suffering from food insecurity.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is helping furloughed workers feed their families. Get more information at feedhopenow.org/need.

The Hummingbird Pantry in Titusville is opening its pantry to furloughed workers at 3 p.m. Friday. Recipients will need to fill out a short form to have with them. Find more information here.

Regina Stanford founded the Hummingbird Pantry in 2012. She wants to let furloughed employees know that the pantry is there for them.
 
"It's no shame in having to come to a food pantry. If you need help, come. Even if it's not to us, reach out and ask for help," Stanford said.              
 
Both food banks are in need of monetary and supply donations to continue helping more people during the shutdown. Click here to donate to the Hummingbird Pantry.

For a full list of Brevard County food pantries click here.

The Orlando International Airport is hosting a food drive for workers with the Transportation Security Administration, Customs and Border Protection and the Federal Aviation Administration. Click here for more details.

Cellphone, internet and cable bill

Major U.S. cellphone, cable and internet providers also have options available for unpaid workers.

Here are links to companies offering deferred payments and other assistance.

No interest loans or deferred payments

Local credit unions are offering no-interest loans for federal and contract workers.

Launch Federal Credit Union, formerly known as Kennedy Space Center Federal Credit Union, has several branches in Brevard County and is also offering a $3,000 zero percent loan for workers affected by the shutdown. Applicants must be an existing federal or contract employee affected by the government shutdown resulting in missed pay, according to the LaunchFCU.com. They will have 12 months to pay back the funds.

Credit union officials said they have already granted "a lot of loans" and adds that many of their members work at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, where about half of the employees are furloughed or working without pay. 

Even if you're not currently a Launch FCU member, the bank said people can open an account and apply for the loan. The deadline to apply is Jan. 31. Click here for information on the loan.

Fairwinds Credit Union is helping its members by working with them on delayed payments or other needs they may have.

"Members who are affected should feel comfortable contacting their Fairwinds representative directly or simply calling and asking for assistance," a spokesperson told News 6.

Navy Federal Credit Union locations in Central Florida are also offering no-interest loans for up to $3,000. Click here for requirements and how to apply.

This week marked the first time members of the U.S. Coast Guard went without pay.

The Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA) received a $15 million donation from USAA. With the help of the American Red Cross, the CGMA will distribute interest-free loans to service members, according to an announcement from USAA. Click here to learn more.

The USAA is also providing interest fee loans and other fiancial aid to all military members. Find more information here.

Larger national banks are also working with federal and contract workers.

Chase Bank is offering some assistance on a case-by-case basis, both for car loans, credit cards and mortgage payments.

Wells Fargo is offering help on a case-by-case basis. Find more information here.

SunTrust customers can contact the bank for assistance by calling the number listed on their cards or at 1-800-SunTrust.

People affected by the shutdown should contact their lenders and utility companies and ask about deferred payments.

The Office of Professional Management offered up this suggested letter federal employees can use to contact their landlords, mortgage lenders and utility companies.

News 6 will continue to update this list with more resources.Check back for updates.

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