Resources for Workers Impacted by Government Shutdown

Update: January 31, 2019

A Message From Senator Mazie K. Hirono:

For 35 days, President Donald Trump presided over a totally unnecessary and unconscionable government shutdown that kept more than 800,000 Federal workers and tens of thousands of Federal contractors either locked out of their jobs or forced to work without pay. These workers went without pay for over five weeks and faced hardship as a result of President Trump’s unreasonable demand for a $5 billion down payment for his vanity border wall. The government shutdown made clear how dedicated Federal workers and Federal contractors are to their jobs and how vital those jobs are to our nation. That is why I am urging the Administration to pay these workers immediately. 

I want to update you on several other actions I have taken recently to ensure that Federal workers and contractors who have faced hardships are made whole.  I worked with my Senate colleagues to pass S.24, the Government Employees Fair Treatment Act, a bill to provide full back-pay to all federal workers who were locked out of their jobs or required to work without pay during the shutdown. President Trump signed this legislation into law on January 16, 2019. 

I have also sponsored S.162, the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act, a bill to provide back pay up to $600 per paycheck for Federal contractors who were locked out of their jobs or had their hours reduced due to the shutdown.  I will continue to fight for passage of this important legislation so that Federal contractors receive the support they deserve during this trying time.

Please know I will continue to fight on behalf of all federal workers, federal contractors, and local businesses who were hurt by this shutdown.

My office has put together a list of resources for those affected by the government shutdown. We will continue to add information as we receive it.

If you want to share your story on how the federal shutdown has affected you or if you need assistance on any specific matter, you are welcome to use the link below or contact my state office at (808) 522-8970 or toll-free at (844) 478-3478 from the neighbor islands and speak with any of my staff.

Mahalo,

U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM)

OPM Furlough Guidance. This link provides pay and benefits information for employees affected by the lapse in appropriations. Find answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Furloughs and Government Shutdown here and a Fact Sheet on Pay and Benefits Information here.

S.24, the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act, was signed into law on January 16, 2019 and ensures that all federal workers who were furloughed or required to work during the government shutdown will receive back pay “at the earliest date possible after the lapse in appropriations ends, regardless of scheduled pay dates.” Following the passage of S.24, Senator Hirono joined many of her colleagues in a bipartisan letter urging OPM to provide back pay for federal workers as soon as possible. The full text of the letter is available here.

IRS Activities Following the Shutdown

The IRS has reopened following the end of the government shutdown. IRS employees are working hard to resume normal operations and help taxpayers as much as possible.

As the IRS resumes operations, there are some important pieces of information for taxpayers and tax professionals to keep in mind in several areas:

Audits. For taxpayers and tax professionals with questions about examinations affected by the shutdown, we have Frequently Asked Questions.

  • Collections. For taxpayers and tax professionals with a collection issue affected by the shutdown, visit the Frequently Asked Questions. This section includes information related to liens, levies, notices of deficiency, penalties, passports and private debt collection.
  • Tax Filing for individuals. The IRS successfully opened the 2019 filing season for taxpayers on Jan. 28. The IRS will be doing everything it can to have a smooth tax season and minimize the impact on taxpayers.
  • Tax Court. Important updated information  for taxpayers and tax professionals with Tax Court cases, including mail being returned and issues with court petitions not being processed.

All the above information is available in the IRS Newsroom at: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-activities-following-the-shutdown.

General Information is available on the IRS website at:

For Tax Court information see U.S. Tax Court.

Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)

Making Loan Payments After the Government Shutdown — (January 29, 2019) Due to limitations of employing agency/service payroll systems, some payroll offices may not be able to deduct loan payments from back pay. If your loan payments haven’t been taken out of back pay, you should submit your loan payments directly to the TSP using the Loan Payment Coupon. You can always check the status of your loan by logging into My Account, selecting “TSP Loans,” and then selecting “Are my payments up to date?” Or you can call the ThriftLine at 1-877-968-3778 and speak to a Participant Service Representative.

Unemployment Insurance

The Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DLIR) Unemployment Insurance (UI) Division provided the following guidance for federal workers who received unemployment benefits during the shutdown:

Federal furloughed employees who receive their retroactive pay must repay the unemployment benefits they received from the State.

The UI division has begun to assess and process overpayments for claimants (these overpayments will be processed altogether at the same time).

If claimants go to their online UI account, they will see that an “issue” has been placed on their claim and they are now considered “not employed” (NU).

Stop payments have been posted and claimants should receive a notice of overpayment within four weeks of when they were deemed NU (by Feb 25th).

Claimants should NOT send in a repayment before they receive a notice from the UI division.

The UI division understands that claimants may not be able to repay the funds due all at once. Payment plans are available. However, if the claimant does not repay the funds, the UI may garnish their pay.

If there is a government shutdown after February 15, 2019, furloughed federal workers may submit a new UI claim and provide proof of their wages. Individuals are eligible for 26 weeks of UI. For claimants who received UI in the recent shutdown, their second claim should be paid much faster than the normal three week processing time from when an initial claim is filed to when a UI payment is received because their wages have already been verified and are in the system. To file a claim online, please visit http://labor.hawaii.gov/ui/.

Community Food Resources for Families

Please use the links below.

Emergency Food Assistance
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced they will provide full benefits for participants in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for the month of February. More information about this announcement can be found here: USDA Information on SNAP Benefits. Here is additional information courtesy of the Hawaii Food Industry Association (HFIA):  Food Assistance Information.

Emergency food assistance is being offered throughout the state to affected workers.

Financial Institutions
Banks and credit unions in Hawaii are offering varied assistance to affected federal employees.   

  • Credit UnionsHawaii Credit Union League Resources. Hawaii credit unions have implemented assistance programs to help members who have been affected by the government shutdown. Please use this link to find what resources your credit union may be offering. 

Utilities
Contact your utility companies to request information about payment arrangement options for federal workers.