Federal employees struggling to pay the bills during the partial US government shutdown could earn some extra cash by painting or doing carpentry for their landlords, the US Office of Personnel Management advised via a tweet late last month.
The agency’s crafty advice was aimed at the 800,000 employees on furlough or working without pay while President Donald Trump and Congress continue their stalemate over funding for a wall on the border between the US and Mexico. The tweet included a link to a number of sample letters that affected workers could send to their creditors to ask for reduced payments while their agencies remain unfunded.
“I am a Federal employee who has recently been furloughed due to a lack of funding of my agency. Because of this, my income has been severely cut and I am unable to pay the entire cost of my monthly payments,” reads one example. “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.”
The shutdown, which went into effect on December 22, has also caused the Smithsonian’s museums and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, to shutter. All 19 branches of the Smithsonian, including the the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, went dark on January 2. The National Gallery has been closed since January 3.
Republicans say they will not consider any legislation that would fund the government without providing the $5 billion Trump wants to build the wall. Democrats have pushed to provide funding for most federal agencies through September while passing an extra month’s funding for Homeland Security in order to further negotiate on the border wall issue.
Trump, for his part, has threatened to keep the government closed for years if necessary, refusing to budge until the wall is fully funded. Though many are undoubtedly facing hardships, he believes that many furloughed workers agree with his decision to prioritize the border wall over their pay.
“I think they would say, ‘Mr. President, keep going,’” Trump said during a press conference last week, according to Politico. “This really does have a higher purpose than next week’s pay.”
OPM’s message to workers warned that the agency “is not able to provide legal advice to individual employees” and suggested those affected consult a personal lawyer. But last time we checked, attorneys don’t accept painting as payment.
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