The government shutdown is forcing some federal workers struggling to pay their rent and provide for their families to make difficult financial decisions.
Skerdi Avrami oversees maintenance and custodial crews at the JFK Library, which has been closed since the government shutdown began on December 22. He is using up all of his accrued vacation time to continue receiving a paycheck, but he’s running out of days.
“I had to pay for the heat to fill up the tank, because it’s going to get cold,” said Avrami. “The bills coming from the holiday season, there is nothing left. It’s a scary situation.”
Avrami has some money in an emergency fund, and a financial adviser says he should use it.
“This is why you set up the emergency fund,” said financial advisor Chris Keith.
Keith says if you don’t have savings, ask a family member for a loan before tapping into your retirement accounts.
“You may be tempted by that, but there are so many penalties,” said Keith. “We just think that the consequences of tapping into that are pretty negative.”
Keith also recommends cutting back on all unnecessary spending and prioritizing your monthly expenses.
“You don’t want to miss the rent,” said Keith. “You don’t want to miss the mortgage, but if you can roll back your monthly utility bills for a month or two, you can catch up later on credit cards, so you don’t harm your credit score.”
Keith also says don’t panic, and remember, if you don’t ask for help, you can't receive it.
“You should reach out to your bank or credit card company, and tell them you’re a federal employee who has been furloughed,” said Keith. “Ask if they have a plan in place for people like you. You may be surprised at what you find out, and you are not going to know until you ask.”
NBC10 Boston reached out to a dozen local financial institutions, and they told us they will take requests for help from furloughed workers on a case by case basis. They said they will be as understanding as possible.
Lawmakers have reintroduced legislation that would guarantee retroactive pay for federal employees impacted by the shutdown.