Feds Say Workers Who Aren't Getting Paid During Shutdown Should 'Barter' With Landlords Over Rent


We are now on Day 7 of a government shutdown that, from the looks of things/Donald Trump’s ever-unhinged morning tweets, isn’t letting up anytime soon. For about 800,000 federal workers, that means no wages, which makes paying rent and bills in January fairly difficult. What says the government, re: this particular predicament? Why, fix a door, of course!

CBS reports that the federal Office of Personnel Management sent out some sample letters on Thursday that furloughed workers can send their landlords if they can’t make rent. For the most part, the letters promise to pay partial rent, then work out a payment plan once the shutdown is over—a fair thing to offer, of course. But one of the letters went a step farther, offering to barter services in exchange for partial rent. Per the letter (emphasis mine):

As we discussed, 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 rent, along with my other expenses. ·
As we had agreed in our conversation, I will be able to make regular payments in the amount of $_______. I realize that I will be responsible to pay the remainder of the payments and, when I return to work, I will contact you immediately to work out a plan to take care of the reduced payments. I will keep in touch with you to keep you informed about my income status and 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.

On the one hand, it is occasionally useful to ask for rent reductions in exchange for free work—I’ve lived in apartments in the past where we’ve, for instance, hired our own plumbers or painted the place ourselves in exchange for lower rent or a the return of a full deposit.

Still, it is enraging that federal workers have to appeal to their landlords’ humanity to stay in their homes, all because a toddler president is in the midst of an extended temper tantrum. And if they do have to barter services to stave off eviction, they are doubly punished, taking on additional labor because they’re on a forced vacation. It’s fun to have a few days off, but not when it’s not of your own volition (or, in the case of a strike, ultimately for your benefit) and certainly not when your paychecks are on hold indefinitely.

Plus, there’s this cute bit from the OPM:

So, to recap: stave off eviction by bartering, and retain an attorney using the income you no longer have. This is in addition to shutdown’s effect on reduced federal funds for food assistance and food safety programs, shuttered national parks, and limited personnel support for essential programs like Medicaid. At least this will all be over one day! Oh, hm.

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