Utility companies offer relief to furloughed federal workers

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Federal government employees and contractors now in the third week of furlough thanks to the government shutdown can receive relief from their water and electricity bills.

On Friday, Mayor Catherine Pugh approved a waiver on water bill late fees for workers who still aren’t receiving paychecks as the government remains closed. The waiver applies to people in both Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

“DPW stands for public service, and the public servants who are going without an income deserve our consideration,” DPW Director Rudy Chow said in a statement. “Waiving late fees and setting up payment plans is one way we can provide some assistance.”

The department is also allowing anyone impacted by the shutdown to set up a payment plan for when they are receiving paychecks again.

Last week, Baltimore Gas and Electric Company reminded users there are flexible payment plans for electricity, and M&T Bank is reportedly waiving maintenance and non-sufficient funds fees on certain accounts and holding off on severe penalties for overdue payments.

Earlier today, Pugh called on other lenders, creditors and utilities to provide similar support.

“I am continuing to reach out to our financial institutions to urge their cooperation and accommodation for City residents affected by the prolonged furlough,” she said in a statement.

She called on the Trump administration and members of Congress “to get our government back to work for the citizens of Baltimore, the State of Maryland – and our entire nation.”

At 24 days, the shutdown is the longest governmental work stoppage in U.S. history, according to records covering the last four decades. The Trump administration has demanded money for a border wall between the United States and Mexico, and the president has said he would not sign a budget without funds for the wall. Congressional Democrats have resisted, passing a budget in the House of Representatives that does not have the funds Trump requested.

According to figures released this morning from Comptroller Peter Franchot’s office, the shutdown affects 172,000 Marylanders and has already resulted in $778 million in lost wages. For the state, that means an estimated loss of $57 million in state tax withholdings and $2.1 million in sales tax.

“These estimates demonstrate what we already knew–the unnecessary shutdown of our federal government is having a devastating effect on Maryland’s families and our state’s economic well-being,” said Franchot said in a statement. “Even if some employees do eventually get repaid, our economy will not be made whole and changes to long-term spending habits may cause further harm.”

Brandon Weigel

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