Federal workers hit by furloughs are increasingly applying for aid from the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEA), a nonprofit organization that provides emergency loans to feds who have trouble meeting basic living expenses.
“We’re getting requests every hour from federal employees. I think sequestration is preying on the most vulnerable of the federal employees out there,” said FEEA Director Steve Bauer during an interview on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp
Bauer said he expects the number of requests to increase dramatically in the coming days due to Defense Department furloughs, which require 680,000 civilian employees take 11 unpaid days by Sept. 30.
While FEEA distributed four furlough-related loans in May, that number jumped to 82 in June. The emergency assistance fund distributed $90,000 in June, of which $49,000 was dispensed due to hardships created by unpaid furlough days, according to a July 9 FEEA press release. FEEA processed furlough-related loans worth $10,000 in the first week of July, according to the release.
The additional requests are putting FEEA in jeopardy of running out of funding, though Bauer said he hopes that doesn’t happen.
“So far, we have not turned anybody down because we did not have the funds to help them,” Bauer said.
FEEA relies on donations from individual federal employees as well as corporations. Federal News Radio is one of FEEA’s six listed corporate sponsors. Bauer said while donations from corporate sponsors are up this year compared to last, FEEA needs more donations in order to keep pace with federal employee loan demands.
“Remember, federal contractors have been hit by sequestration as well because many of their contracts have been reduced,” Bauer said. “They’re going through their own tough times as well.”
FEEA provides up to $1,000 in interest-free loans to individuals employed by the federal government for at least one year, according to its website. The loans are paid directly to the creditors the individual is behind in paying. In order to obtain furlough-related assistance, FEEA requires applicants to already have received a reduced paycheck, Bauer said.
Bauer said many of those applying for loans have preexisting conditions which make them especially vulnerable to unpaid furlough days.
So far, FEEA has assisted employees from the IRS, Environmental Protection Agency, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Labor Department and the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the release. FEEA has helped federal employees in 21 different states.
Bauer said the strain on federal employees is likely to grow with each successive furlough day.
“It’s got a cumulative effect on folks,” Bauer said. “(For) many people, the first furlough day is not a big problem, but the second is more of a problem and the third becomes a critical problem for many of these folks.”
Want to know more about furlough loans or how you can donate to FEEA? Visit Federal News Radio’s Surviving Furloughs page.
Melissa Dawkins is an intern for Federal News Radio
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, 6 a.m.-10 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. region and online everywhere.
Tom also writes a weekly commentary. Subscribe to Federal Drive's daily audio interviews on iTunes or PodcastOne