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Resources available for federal workers during the partial government shutdown

The sun rises behind the White House in Washington, Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers faced a partial government shutdown early Saturday after Democrats refused to meet President Donald Trump's demands for $5 billion to start erecting a border wall with Mexico. Overall, more than 800,000 federal employees would see their jobs disrupted, including more than half who would be forced to continue working without pay. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

As the partial government shutdown grinds into it's third week, more than 800,000 federal employees and 4.1 million federal contractors are affected. That's left thousands without a way to make ends meet.

Federal workers will go without paychecks beginning Jan. 11.

While many across the DC area are nervous about their finances, several companies and organizations are making it easier to help those employees who may be struggling to pay their bills.

ABC7 is On Your Side with a growing list of resources, programs and seminars to help affected employees during the shutdown:

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Washington Gas

As the partial shutdown of the federal government continues, Washington Gas announced on Tuesday that it will now offer flexible payment arrangements for government employees directly impacted.

Washington Gas makes several payment plans and services available to customers who may have difficulty paying their bills. Customers should contact Washington Gas customer service representatives at 1-844-WASHGAS to discuss their individual situations. Plans to assist customers include:

  • The Washington Gas Budget Plan: This plan allows eligible customers to spread the cost of winter heating over the entire year. It helps to minimize the impact of typically higher seasonal bills and provides greater flexibility in managing a household budget. The Budget Plan is designed as a 12-month program, and we encourage customers to stay on it year-round to realize the potential benefits.
  • Payment Deferments: Washington Gas will work with all eligible customers who cannot pay the “past due bill amount” as well as the “current charges” on their gas bill, by offering deferred payment arrangements upon request by the customer. Washington Gas will comply with all applicable laws, tariff regulations and orders of its regulators when extending payment deferments to customers who show a willingness to pay past due amounts. The deferred payment agreement Washington Gas may enter into with its customers prevents further credit action on the account, including the assessment of late charges, mailed reminder and/or turn off notices, and collection calls, as long as the customer abides by the agreement.
  • The Washington Area Fuel Fund (WAFF): Founded by Washington Gas and administered by The Salvation Army, WAFF helps families who do not qualify for, or who have exhausted, government energy assistance. WAFF provides funds for all types of fuel to heat families' homes during the winter heating season. Through its merger with AltaGas, Washington Gas has increased its funding to WAFF and broadened WAFF’s eligibility beyond low-income customers. For example, a family of four earning $75,050 could qualify for assistance. WAFF also accepts donations to assist neighbors in need. Every dollar donated to WAFF goes directly to those who need assistance because Washington Gas pays the administrative fees of the fund. For more information or to apply for assistance, contact The Salvation Army at 888-318-WAFF (9233) or visit www.waffhelp.org. Donations can also be made at this website.

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DC Water

DC Water announced on Wednesday a plan to immediately begin working with any federal worker who may need additional flexibility in paying their bill due to the partial government shutdown.

DC Water already has multiple programs to assist customers who are struggling with their bills, including:

  • Extended payment plans: Call 202-354-3600 to and work with customer assistance team.
  • SPLASH (Serving People by Lending A Supporting Hand): SPLASH is a DC Water program that helps customers maintain critical water and sewer service in times of financial emergencies.
  • DOEE Customer Assistance Program: This new program launched on January 1 and builds on the longtime Customer Assistance Program offered by DC Water for any customer in need. This and the newer versions of the program are administered by the city’s Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE).

Impacted federal workers can learn more about options by calling customer service at 202-354-3600. More details on customer assistance options can be found on their website.

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WSSC

In an effort to assist federal workers struggling to make ends meet as the government shutdown hits 19 days, WSSC announced on Thursday that it will suspend all water service shutoffs to ensure safe, clean water continues to flow to customer’s homes.

Additionally, the state’s largest water utility serving 1.8 million residents in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will waive late fees and work one-on-one with customers impacted by the shutdown to establish convenient payment plans.

Customers are encouraged to contact WSSC and speak with a representative at 301-206-4001 or 1-800-828-6439 to discuss their specific situation.

In addition to these new assistance measures targeted to customers impacted by the federal shutdown, WSSC offers a variety of affordability programs to help customers in need. Existing customer affordability programs include:

  • The Water Fund

The Water Fund provides a maximum of $300 annually to help residential customers who are experiencing financial hardship pay their WSSC bills. The Salvation Army in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties administers The Water Fund. For More Information, visit: www.wsscwater.com/iep.

  • CAP

Customers already enrolled in the Office of Home Energy Program (OHEP) qualify for CAP, which waives the Account Maintenance and Infrastructure Investment fees. Customers only pay for their water and sewer usage. For more information, visit: www.wsscwater.com/cap.

  • The Bay Restoration Fund Financial Hardship Exemption Program

This program waives the state-mandated Bay Restoration Fee. To qualify for the exemption, customers must be certified by OHEP or meet certain criteria. If you qualify for WSSC’s CAP program, you automatically qualify for this exemption. For more information, visit: www.wsscwater.com/bayexempt.

  • HomeServe Cares

HomeServe Cares is a fund administered by HomeServe USA to aid qualifying WSSC customers faced with a plumbing emergency who do not have a HomeServe service plan or the necessary funds to cover emergency home repairs.

Under the program, emergency repairs are made at no cost to the homeowner. For more information, visit: www.wsscwater.com/homeserve.

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Dominion Energy

Dominion Energy is also offering assistance, including payment extensions, long-term payment plans and bill payment assistance options. For electric customers in Virginia, a Payment Extension provides more time to pay your bill. Participation depends on the status of your account, check to see are eligible.

  • If you are unable to pay by the extended payment due date, sign in to your account to review other Payment Plan options.
  • Extensions cannot be made while on Budget Billing or Bank Draft.
  • There are no fees associated with a short-term extension; however, late payment charges apply on any past due balance.

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Pepco

Pepco is also working to raise awareness about the programs it has in place to assist customers who may be struggling financially, including those impacted by the ongoing government shutdown.

For customers in DC and Maryland, there are several programs, depending on the circumstance, that can help those in need including:

For more information on such, contact Pepco either by phone (1-800-643-3768 - DC; 1-800-735-2258 - Maryland) or on their website.

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The Neighborhood Barbershop

On Jan. 13 from Noon until close, the Neighborhood Barbershop is hosting their 'Shutdown Cutdown' event. The Falls Church barbershop is giving free haircuts for furloughed federal government employees (with appropriate ID).

Volunteers from local salons and barbershops will be providing men's and women's haircuts. For more information, visit their website or Facebook page.

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Dinner with Fellow Feds

Montgomery County Councilmember Tom Hucker is hosting a community potluck & live music night to support federal employees and contractors impacted by the shutdown on Jan 11 from 6:30-9:00 p.m. The event is free. Supporters and neighbors are asked to bring a dish to pass.

"Let’s let feds who haven’t been able to take families out to a nice meal come to a public space and have their neighbors bring them a home cooked meal," said Hucker to DCist.

For more information and to sign up to attend, visit here.

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Fairfax County Public Schools

Fairfax County Public Schools is hiring furloughed federal employees as substitute teachers. The school district states it would expedite hiring for qualified candidates. A hiring event is set to be held on Jan. 11, with a second event scheduled for Jan. 15.

For more information on the event, visit their website for details.

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Chase Bank

Chase encourages its customers to call to discuss certain hardship programs if they are employees of, or do business with, a U.S. federal agency and their income is affected by the shutdown.

Customers who are in financial need should call the special care line at 1-888-356-0023. Chase offers hardship programs to customers broadly who have been affected by unemployment, financial strain or natural disasters.

In addition, Chase will automatically waive or refund overdraft and monthly service fees on Chase checking and savings accounts if an employee’s salary from an affected federal agency was direct-deposited into the account in November, 2018.

Chase will waive or refund the affected fees from December 24 through January 4 or until the shutdown ends – whichever is sooner.

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Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union customers may be eligible for government shutdown assistance if their pay is impacted.

Customers who have set up direct deposit of pay with Navy Federal, and are:

  • Federal government employees
  • Active Duty service members of the Coast Guard

may be eligible for assistance. Contact the credit union for more information.

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Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo is helping individuals who are experiencing hardship as a result of the federal government shutdown. The bank will work with individuals and business banking customers whose income is disrupted as a result of the shutdown.

Customers should call 1-800-TO-WELLS, or the number on their credit card, debit card or statement for assistance, or visit any Wells Fargo branch.

In addition, Wells Fargo mortgage, loan, and credit customers may qualify for forbearance or other payment assistance programs based on their individual circumstances. For help, customers should visit their website for more information.

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Prince George's County

Residents of Prince George's County government and it's partners have worked collaboratively to provide relief. A list of available resources throughout the County can be found on their website.



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