ST. PAUL -- Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmakers want to get federal employees affected by the partial federal government shutdown access to interest-free loans as soon as possible.
On Friday, Jan. 25, a group of legislators said they'd aim to push through committee and floor votes next week a bill that would allow federal employees who are furloughed or not being paid during the shutdown to access interest-free loans of up to $5,000 a month for up to three months. Banks would have the option to apply with the state to offer the loans and the state would guarantee them.
The proposal came as the shutdown entered Day 35 and federal workers missed their second paycheck since it started. Congress and President Donald Trump on Friday said that they had struck a deal to temporarily re-open the government while debates over border security continued.
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said the measure was set to come before the House Commerce Committee on Tuesday and could receive a floor vote as early as next week. The measure likely would have support there, as Democrats hold a majority. But its fate in the Senate is less certain. There, Republicans hold a two-seat majority.
“We have one, we just need one more,” Winkler said, indicating Republican Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, signed onto the bill.
The measure's sponsors said they had one bank and one credit union express interest in offering the loans and hoped the option would help tide over workers until the shutdown subsides.
"Our message to our federal employees is that until the federal government gets their act together, we've got your back," one of the bill's sponsors, Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, said.
Celia Hahn, a TSA officer at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport said she hadn't received a paycheck since Dec. 31 and had cut down on spending to avoid taking on debt. But she wasn't sure how much longer she could afford to work without a paycheck.
"While eventually I will receive back pay, it doesn't pay the bills now and it doesn't make up for the stress and anxiety that working without pay brings," Hahn said.