If you were among the roughly 800,000 federal workers affected by the recent partial government shutdown, you may have questions about how to get your finances back in shape.
The 35-day closure — the longest U.S. government shutdown in history — came to an end after the White House and Congress agreed to fund the government for three weeks. However, it’s unclear whether the government will remain open if a new agreement isn’t reached by the Feb. 15 deadline.
If you’re a federal worker, you may have missed as many as two full paychecks before the end of the recent shutdown, and you might still be wondering how to contact your financial institutions or pay your bills. One of the three major consumer credit bureaus, TransUnion, has some tips to help you safeguard your credit as you handle your budgets following the shutdown.
4 next steps to take if you were affected by the shutdown
Although the shutdown may be over for now, missing out on regular paychecks may have left you scrambling to catch up. If you were among the federal workers impacted by the shutdown, TransUnion recommends taking these four steps to help you find your financial footing:
- Contact your creditors: If you’re worried about falling behind on payments, a call to your creditors to explain your recent financial hardship as a federal worker could help keep late payment information from negatively affecting your credit.
- Prioritize your bills: Pay the bills that can’t be skipped first — likely rent, mortgage or auto payments. Make sure you’re also maintaining timely, minimum payments on your credit cards. And again, if you’re worried that you won’t be able to meet all of your financial obligations, make a call to your lenders to see how they may be able to work with you.
- Make partial payments: Contact your utility companies to see if they might consider accepting a partial payment because of your recent financial hardship.
- Take steps to protect your credit: Order your free credit reports and continue to monitor your credit through a free service like Credit Karma. Maintaining timely, minimum bill payments will be key in keeping your credit scores healthy. Federal workers may also add a special comment to their credit reports to inform lenders of their circumstances.
What else you should know
Analysts at Capital Economics said President Trump would be unlikely to initiate another government shutdown after the Feb. 15 deadline, according to a report last month in The Wall Street Journal. Still, lingering uncertainty could affect you and the U.S. economy as a whole in the months ahead.
For now, in addition to contacting creditors, paying bills as you can, and monitoring your credit, if you’re a federal worker who could be impacted by another government shutdown, consider contacting your members of Congress to make your voice heard.
And if you’re looking for more information or resources from your bank, the American Bankers Association has a list of banks that are offering help to federal workers. The Credit Union National Association has a similar list of credit unions.