Pritzker, Frerichs free up $100M to aid gov't workers
‘We have an obligation as a state to do everything we can to help those paying a direct price for the actions of the president,’ says governor
By Ted Cox
Gov. Pritzker and the state treasurer are joining to free up $100 million to boost loans for federal workers going unpaid during President Trump’s partial government shutdown.
Pritzker announced in Springfield Wednesday that Treasurer Michael Frerichs will run a “linked” deposit loan program through state banks and credit unions intended to benefit furloughed government employees and those working critical jobs without being paid, such as airport security.
“Through no fault of their own, federal employees living in Illinois are not receiving their paychecks while expenses continue to pile up,” Pritzker said. “We have an obligation as a state to do everything we can to help those paying a direct price for the actions of the president. This loan program will help those struggling to meet their day-to-day expenses as the shutdown drags on.”
There are an estimated 800,000 federal employees going unpaid during the shutdown, 8,000 of those in Illinois.
Trump is demanding more than $5 billion in government funding to build a wall on the border with Mexico, and said in December he would “own” it and “wear the mantle” if that resulted in a government shutdown, which it did. That shutdown is now in its second month, the first time in U.S. history the government has been shut down for such an extended period.
Illinois congressional Democrats joined idled workers in a rally urging an end to the shutdown last week at Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago, including calls to “end the shutdown and furlough Trump,” and another rally is set for noon Thursday at the same location.
Frerichs’s office will distribute the $100 million to various banks and credit unions, thus allowing them to provide below-market rates to federal employees who qualify. Specific rates and terms of eligibility will vary, but the idea is the state will deposit the money at a low rate of interest so the institution can lend it out at an even lower rate.
Pritzker also called on lenders to waive fees and provide other forms of relief in the way of mortgages, student loans, and car loans for workers going unpaid during the shutdown.
According to Pritzker’s office, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is also offering winter heating assistance to qualified federal workers through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Pritzker also said he’s monitoring those suffering collateral damage as government agencies struggle with the consequences of going unfunded. “My administration is continuing to explore all possible options to shore up critical services that receive federal funding,” he said, “to make sure our most vulnerable families are protected from the harm the Trump shutdown might cause, and to assist impacted federal employees.”
“This program will help bring relief for working families impacted by this impasse,” Frerichs said. “The president shut down the federal government and threatened the livelihood of thousands of families in Illinois to play political games. Difficult policy debates are a hallmark of government, but we cannot let our disagreements hurt working families who want nothing more than to pay their bills, raise a family, and save for the future.”
“The president shut down the federal government and threatened the livelihood of thousands of families in Illinois to play political games.”
Treasurer Michael Frerichs (One Illinois/Ted Cox)
The Illinois Bankers Association and the Illinois Credit Union League both endorsed the program and their involvement.
“The Illinois Bankers Association’s 300 member banks stand with Governor Pritzker in his call to assist workers who are struggling with the federal government shutdown,” said Linda Koch, association president. “We are proud that banks throughout Illinois are offering help to federal employees and other businesses and individuals affected by the shutdown.”
“Based on the makeup of the membership, we have a number of the 270 credit unions in Illinois with a significant percentage of federal workers as members,” said Tom Kane, league president. “Many of these credit unions have implemented formal programs to assist federal workers with special low- or no-interest payroll interruption loans, skip-a-payment options, or waiving penalties for cashing in a (certificate of deposit) early.”