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Furloughed workers hurt by shutdown could get financial protection under new bill

The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act would shield workers against eviction, foreclosure and financial penalties, Sen. Chuck Schumer said Sunday.

Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday introduces a bill

Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday introduces a bill that would protect 800,000 federal workers and their families from the financial fallout from the government shutdown. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday outlined a new bill that would help protect furloughed federal workers from evictions and financial penalties.

Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said the bill, The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act, would ensure that furloughed workers wouldn't be evicted or foreclosed on, have their car or property repossessed, be penalized for falling behind in student loan payments or other bills, or lose insurance because of missed premiums. The proposed legislation comes on the 30th day of the federal government shutdown, which has left many federal workers scrambling to pay the bills. 

"Your average federal worker who's not getting paid has bills that don't stop: It could be a car payment, it could be a student loan, it could be a mortgage. The problems keep growing every day," Schumer said, speaking from his office in Manhattan on Sunday. "And most of our federal workers, they're not paid terribly, but they're not paid so well that when they skip a paycheck or two paychecks it doesn't hurt. It clearly does."

Schumer said the bill is modeled after the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, which was enacted in 2003 and protects military service members during active duty against things like evictions and mortgage foreclosures, according to the Department of Justice.

The bill has 24 co-sponsors, all of whom are Democrats, according to Schumer's office. He said he hopes to "get some Republican co-sponsors" and will aim to bring the bill to a vote early this week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is in charge of scheduling the daily legislative program.

"We can ask a unanimous consent request to bring it to the floor," Schumer said.

He said that the approximately 800,000 federal workers who are not getting paid are "being used as pawns" and "that's a very bad, cruel thing to do."

"We all know that we passed a law that once the shutdown is over, they'll get pay. But there's a lot of damage that can occur in the interim," he added.

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