Concerned about not getting paid when the government shuts down?

OJAG Code-16

If Congress is unable to reach an agreement on a federal budget, there will be a government shutdown. In the event of a government shutdown, it is likely that military (active duty) personnel will continue to report for duty as usual. It is also likely that the civilian workforce will face furlough depending on whether the civilian position is an “essential” position—if you are deemed to be essential, you go to work; if not, you hope for a mildly sunny furlough so you can relax outside with your family.

Active duty military WILL EVENTUALLY get paid. It’s just that paychecks could be delayed for a few days or a few weeks. It is unknown if civilians will be paid for the time they were unable to work or be in a paid leave status.

Will you really be evicted or sued by your creditors?
1. Such dire consequences are unlikely because creditors usually only report a late payment if the payment is 30 days or more late. If you do get a “ding” on your credit report you can ask the credit reporting companies (Experian, Transunion, Equifax) to post a personal statement about the cause: a government shutdown that delayed your pay or furloughed you without pay.

2. If you are presently current on your rent or mortgage you are not going to immediately be evicted or have your home foreclosed. When a tenant is unable to pay rent, landlords usually give a written demand for payment, followed by a Notice to Quit or Pay; and then they have to get a court order to evict you. If your jurisdiction has a shorter period in which the landlord can take action, it is possible that you can buy some time by appropriately invoking the protections of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act which requires the landlord to obtain a court order in order to evict a Servicemember or his or her dependents.

3. If you are current on your vehicle payments it is not likely that your car will immediately be repossessed. Remember that usually repossession or foreclosure occurs after several (usually three) missed payments.

4. Your credit may be “dinged” but it is not going to be ruined. Your security clearance is not going to be damaged beyond repair by the government shutdown if you are current on your debts right now. If, however, you have a history of credit issues and decided recently to clear them up, you may face a few additional credibility problems with your creditors if there is a government shutdown.

5. If you have a court ordered obligation (such as child support) you must find a way to pay it. If you absolutely cannot pay, call the agency and the other parent to let them know the money will be delayed.

DO NOT RUSH TO BORROW MONEY FROM PAYDAY LENDERS. If you realize that you will have trouble making ends meet, consider going to Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society for an interest free loan or to local charities and food banks for temporary assistance. If you pay your bills by auto-debit or you have authorized creditors to take automatic payments from your bank account, you should immediately take action to delay those auto pays and auto debits so that you do not get hit with overdraft or late payment fees.

If any of these fees are assessed on your account, call the bank or the other creditor who is charging the fee and request that they remove the charges and explain that this situation was beyond your control. Although there is no law requiring creditors to comply with your request, sometimes asking nicely can go a long way. If they do agree to remove the charges, remember to thank them and follow up with a short letter or fax confirming the agreement.

IF YOU REALIZE THAT YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PAY YOUR DEBTS, CALL YOUR CREDITORS AND MAIL OR FAX THEM A LETTER AS SOON AS YOU CONFIRM THAT THERE WILL BE A DELAY OR REDUCTION IN YOUR PAY DUE TO THE SHUTDOWN. Tell them you are going to be unable to pay them right now, as promised. If you have a “not so good” bill paying history, the person to whom you are speaking may become a bit irritable, may respond with a negative or derogatory statement—TAKE A DEEP BREATH, remain positive, don’t lose your cool. Remind the person that unlike the past, this is a situation that is fully beyond your control. Tell them that as soon as you receive your paycheck, you will pay them.

If you have additional questions, contact your local legal assistance office. You can find the office nearest to you by going to

About rlsonw

Navy JAG Corps
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