Some charities, banks and credit unions are stepping up to help certain Coast Guard members and other federal workers who are on the verge of financial straits because of the partial government shutdown, which means a missed Jan. 15 paycheck.
While the Defense Department is not part of the shutdown, and Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy service members are being paid, as well as DoD civilians, the Coast Guard is not part of DoD, and is affected. An unknown number of military spouses and veterans also work for various other federal agencies that are part of the shutdown, and won’t receive paychecks.
“We are prepared to assist around 22,000 members of the Coast Guard workforce, with approximately $15 million in support,” said retired Rear Adm. Cari Thomas, CEO of Coast Guard Mutual Assistance.
“We wish we could do more, but we will do all we can do,” Thomas said.
The relief society will provide assistance of up to $1,000 to eligible members with dependents; $750 to those who are single; and $200 to cadets. The interest-free loan is designed to cover two weeks of significant shortfalls because of not being paid, such as costs for housing, essential utilities, food and child care.
Those eligible in the Coast Guard include: Any E5 and below; GS-6 and below; wage grade equivalents making $2,615 or less; officer candidates and cadets.
Thomas said others in the Coast Guard community may be eligible for limited assistance if they are in dire need of assistance ― such as in immediate need of food for the family, under imminent threat of eviction, or facing immediate cutoff of essential utilities. Not everyone is able to accumulate an emergency fund to handle such situations.
The assistance will be provided in the form of a check, and those receiving the assistance will repay it in a lump sum after normal paydays are restored.
The relief society is not able to help everyone affected by the shutdown, Thomas said, because of the magnitude of the problem. The Coast Guard needs $150 million to pay its whole work force in one pay cycle, she said. In the entire history of CGMA ― since 1924 ― they’ve provided about $190 million in assistance. The society has $23 million in its investment portfolio, and is pursuing a line of credit to provide the help so as to avoid doing long-term damage to the financial viability of the organization.
The American Legion’s Temporary Financial Assistance program is also working with Coast Guard Mutual Assistance to provide immediate financial support for active-duty Coast Guard members with minor children in the home, with one-time grants of up to $1,500 per eligible household, during the shutdown.
A number of local efforts are also under way, with food banks and other assistance. For example, the Massachusetts Veterans of Foreign Wars has given a $2,500 check to the Massachusetts Military Support Foundation to help feed more than 2,000 military families a week, according to the Worcester, Mass., Telegram & Gazette.
Coast Guard members and other federal workers are also encouraged to check with their military-affiliated banks and credit unions to determine if any assistance is available. Some are offering loans to help replace at least part of the lost paycheck.
For example, Navy Federal Credit Union offers a “Government Shutdown Loan Program,” a no-interest loan, with a maximum amount of $6,000. The loan amount is based on the most recent direct deposit of pay made prior to the interruption of pay. Once the government resumes direct deposit of pay, the amount loaned will be automatically deducted as repayment.
The loan is available only to those who have direct deposit with Navy Federal. There are no fees or interest charged on the loan. For the loan to be available on your scheduled pay date, you must register by the day before, but Navy Federal will continue to accept registration until three days after your scheduled pay day.
To set up the program, visit www.navyfederal.org.
The amount of loan varies, depending on the last direct deposit. For example, last paycheck direct deposits between $501 and $1,000 would qualify for a loan of $500. Deposits between $2,501 and all $3,000 would qualify for a $2,500 loan. Deposits between $5,501 and $6,000 would qualify for a $5,500 loan. Any direct deposit over $6,000 would qualify for a $6,000 loan.
PenFed’s Direct Deposit Assistance program allows a loan/advance on an overdraft line of credit in the amount of your most recent direct deposit from a qualifying government agency, up to $6,000. You must be a member of PenFed for at least 12 months with an existing direct deposit from a furloughed government agency.
Once the shutdown ends, PenFed will monitor and take the repayment from your primary deposit account.
If you don’t have direct deposit with PenFed, you may be eligible for a furlough loan product, which would be offered at 2 percentage points less than the standard interest rate of the approved applicant.
PenFed members with consumer loans and lines of credit (i.e., car loan, credit card, personal loan, or line of credit) may be eligible for a skipped payment during January.
Call 800-247-5626 if interested in requesting this assistance.
The bank is offering no-interest paycheck advances to its 2,800 clients who are affected by the shutdown, with existing direct deposit, covering paychecks during the Jan. 11 through Jan. 28 period, according to Scott Spiker, chairman/CEO of First Command Financial Services. The deadline to sign up for the current pay period is noon, Jan. 15. To date, 175 clients have opted in to the program, and have received advances totaling $455,173. The bank will continue to provide opportunities later for clients who didn’t opt in before. No interest or fees are charged for the advances. The potential total value of the offer is $6.1 million.
First Command will also work with clients on any First Command loan payments, and will waive any early withdrawal penalties for clients who need to redeem a First Command Bank certificate of deposit before its maturity date.
The bank can also help clients use certain mutual fund accounts as collateral for a low interest rate line of credit; and the bank will waive cash advance fees for its Visa cardholders during the shutdown. Those cardholders will get priority processing for increases to credit limits and deferments of monthly payments.
Call 888-763-7600 for more information.
These are just a few examples of the assistance available. Consider checking with your relief society and other charities, bank or credit union to see what assistance they’re offering.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.