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Warner & Kaine Reintroduce Legislation to Protect Federal Workers, Contractors, Their Families from Losing Their Homes, Falling Behind on Bills During Shutdown, Debt Default

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) reintroduced legislation to protect federal workers and their families from foreclosures, evictions, and loan defaults during a government shutdown or debt default. The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act would enable government employees and contractors to postpone payment obligations during a shutdown or debt default and for 30 days afterward.

“During the government shutdown under President Trump, we spent lots of time with government employees who often broke down crying because they didn’t know how they were going to put food on the table or keep a roof over their family’s heads,” said the Senators. “Some people in Congress treat government shutdowns or the threat of a debt default like political games, but to federal workers and their families, the consequences can be grim and all too real. This legislation will help shield federal employees and their families from those in Congress who think it’s good politics to stop paying our bills by shutting down the government or defaulting on our debt.”

During the December 2018 government shutdown, many federal workers received a pay stub with zero dollars on it. This bill addresses the real threat of federal workers and contractors losing their homes, falling behind on student loans and other bills, having their car repossessed, or losing their health insurance because they have been furloughed during a shutdown or required to work without pay. The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act would protect impacted workers from:

  • Being evicted or foreclosed;
  • Having their car or other property repossessed;
  • Falling behind in their student loan payments;
  • Having negative effects on their credit history;
  • Falling behind in paying their bills; or
  • Losing their insurance because of missed premiums.

This protection would last during a shutdown and debt default and 30 days afterwards to give workers a chance to keep up with their bills and would enable these workers to apply to a court to temporarily postpone payment obligations or eviction or foreclosure actions.

During the longest government shutdown in U.S. history in 2019, Warner and Kaine took a series of actions to protect affected workers, including guaranteeing back pay for federal employees, urging back pay for contractors, introducing budget amendments to protect federal workers, and urging OPM to prevent the termination of dental and vision insurance for federal employees. During the shutdown, Kaine objected to the Senate going out of session, which resulted in him securing passage of legislation to guarantee back pay for federal employees. He has also introduced legislation that would end Congress’ abuse of the debt ceiling and prevent a debt default by allowing the President to raise the debt ceiling subject to a congressional override.

In addition to Warner and Kaine, the Federal Employee Civil Relief Act is sponsored by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

This legislation is supported by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA), National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), Federal Managers Association (FMA), International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), and National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU).