With the partial government shutdown expected to extend into January with no funding agreement in sight, the Trump administration suggested on Thursday that the hundreds of thousands of unpaid federal workers who have been furloughed could do odd jobs and chores for their landlords to help cover rent.
In a tweet on Thursday, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM)—led by Margaret Weichert, whom President Donald Trump picked to head the agency in October—offered a Word document featuring sample letters purportedly aimed at helping unpaid federal workers negotiate with landlords, mortgage companies, and creditors amid the government shutdown, which was caused by Trump's demand for $5 billion in border wall funding.
Feds, here are sample letters you may use as a guide when working with your creditors during this furlough. If you need legal advice please consult with your personal attorney. https://t.co/t6h6OzALsS
— OPM (@USOPM) December 27, 2018
"I will keep in touch with you to keep you informed about my income status and I would like to discuss with you the possibility of trading my services to perform maintenance (e.g. painting, carpentry work) in exchange for partial rent payments," reads the sample letter to a landlord.
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The Trump administration's advice, which was met with outrage, came as Republican lawmakers announced after extremely short sessions on Thursday that there has been no progress toward reopening the government—meaning the shutdown that has left hundreds of thousands of workers without pay will continue into the new year.
"There are countless stories of families' holidays being upended by Trump's obstinance causing the shutdown, as so many of them live paycheck-to-paycheck. Then OPM comes through with this tone-deaf tweet telling them to check with their 'personal attorney,'" progressive activist Jordan Uhl noted, highlighting the federal workers' personal accounts of how they have been harmed by the lapse in government funding.
"It's shameful," journalist Celeste Pewter wrote of the fact that workers are being forced to "appeal to the goodwill of creditors, landlords, and mortgage companies" to get by.
"Let's keep up the pressure on our electeds—particularly GOP ones—to end this shutdown," Pewter concluded.