How to Get Money Help During the Government Shutdown

in Plan by Lacey Langford, AFC®

In case you missed it, the government shut down. Well, partially shut down to be exact. With that means many people are either not working or working without pay. Neither are good. There’s no denying it’s a stressful time but don’t panic. Right now, it’s important to focus on keeping your financial life afloat. Thankfully people and companies are pulling together to help one another through.

But what do you do when you technically have a job but you aren’t getting paid or can’t report to work? Well, there are a lot of free advice, aid, and resources out there to help. Here’s the low down for money help during a government shutdown.

What is a Government Shutdown?

First, what’s a government shutdown? Each year Congress must pass (and the president sign) funding for 12 areas of the government, A.K.A appropriations bills. If they aren’t passed, then there’s no money for those areas of the government to function. Sometimes they slap a bandaid on it by passing a continuing resolution to provide temporary funding. But those are not funding for the whole year. The current situation is a partial shutdown because Congress passed full year-long funding for 5 appropriations bills: Defense, Energy-Water, Labor-HHS Education, Legislative Branch, Military Construction-VA. That leaves Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services, Homeland Security, Interior-Environment, State-Foreign operations, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development unfunded, hence the partial shutdown.

What to do if you are Impacted?

If you’re being impacted by the government shutdown…stay calm. I know that’s way easier said than done but keeping a level head will help you make good financial decisions. I’m not saying to be Namaste but don’t be Chicken Little either. It won’t help the siutaion. Here’s what you do:

  1. Create or update your budget – You have to have a crystal clear picture of any money you have coming in and all the bills you have to pay. No ifs, ands or buts, do your budget first!
  2. Find what you can cut – It sucks but you have to get your expense as low as possible right now. Think, “how low can you go.” Remember, it’s for right now, not forever. What expense can you live without? Cable, internet, Netflix, Hulu, house cleaner, yard service. Identify what you can get rid of and call to cancel or cut off ASAP.
  3. Use free resources to help – Below is a list of resources and to help you during the government shutdown. Use them to help cover your expenses or get advice to see you through. Divert money you have to pay for critical expense such as your mortgage or rent, car payment and use free aid for areas you can get help with such as food or utility payments.
  4. Find ways to make extra cash quick –  Sell things you don’t need or want, get a part-time job, walk dogs, run errands for others, do surveys online. If you have to, take out a short-term loan with your bank to help cover your expenses.
  5. Give everyone a heads up – Call your creditors, utilities and mortgage company and let them know you’re impacted by the shutdown. Then follow up with a letter for documentation. Here are some example letters provided by the Office of Personnel Management. Many companies will work with you during a shutdown.
  6. Get professional advice and guidance – Right now, you don’t have to go it alone to figure out your finances. There are free financial counselors and coaches available to guide you through these financial times. See the list below.
  7. Stay positive! – Again, easier said then done but you have to stay positive and not let the situation beat your down. Remember my financial improvement mantra, “It’s not forever, it’s just for right now.” Things will get better!

Free Financial Guidance Resources

Most military installations have a financial counselor available to assist people with money questions. They’ll be at the installation financial assistance office depending on your branch of service. Start close to home by looking for a local listing in your area. You can also look for a free financial counselor through professional organizations.

Available Resources

Hopefully, if you’re impacted you’ve found at least a few resources here to see you through the government shutdown. Be strategic and plan your finances to get through the shutdown. After that, you can look at some of these same resources to improve your financial stability in the future.