Help offered to federal workers here


Federal employees in the Clinton area affected by the partial government shutdown will eventually receive their back pay, thanks to a bill signed this week by President Donald Trump. But those who may be struggling to get by until then are being offered help from a city utility and one local bank. 
Oklahoma Bank and Trust President Keith Ventris said the bank is offering 90-day loans to help federal workers get by. Most current bank customers who normally receive government paycheck deposits will automatically qualify, he said, but the loan offer is even being extended to non-customers who qualify. 
“We’ve already contacted our customers and informed them of the loans, but if there are other federal workers who qualify we’ll help them too,” said Ventris. “We’re basing the loan amounts on what someone gets deposited. So for example if they get deposited $1,000, then the loan can go up to $1,000. Then next month, they could do it again. 
“We’re kind of structuring it so we’re replacing their paychecks, and they can pay it when they get their paychecks back. So it isn’t just a one-shot deal, it’s an advancing line.” 
Ventris said it won’t cost borrowers anything to take out the loans, and he’s optimistic the shutdown will be over within 90 days.
“We felt like 90 days would be plenty long enough, but we’ve heard rumors that people wouldn’t get paid back in one lump sum,” he said. “So, we thought we needed to match our payment schedule to however people get their money. We’ll go up to three months without payments, then when they get paid we’ll have them pay back the note that way. At that point we’d have to talk, but hopefully it (the shutdown) won’t go that far.
“We just mainly wanted to help the people that we knew here.”
The City of Clinton is also offering help by giving its federally employed water customers short extensions on their bills. 
The City already offers water customers short extensions up to two times per year, said utilities office manager Sherry Morgan, but she wants to make sure government employees know that.
“A lot of people don’t realize that we do that,” said Morgan. “Unexpected things come up and it’s nice to be able to have that option if you need it. If someone needs till the end of the month to pay their bill we’ll make payment arrangements two times a year, but this is kind of a special circumstance.”
Making the special arrangements will prevent customers’ water from being shut off, she said, but ordinarily that wouldn’t prevent late fees. However, the city is making an exception in this case. 
City manager Mark Skiles has given his okay for a one-time late-fee waiver to federal workers.
“All we ask is that people contact our office in a timely way,” Skiles said. “We’re sensitive to their plight and we know it’s not of their choosing, but we’re confident the situation will be resolved.”
Among the federal employees in this area affected by the shutdown are those who work for the USDA, Social Security Administration, Clinton Indian Health Center, and active and retired military.  
Clinton Veterans Center Administrator Brenda Jarrell said workers there are paid by the state and haven’t been affected. But if the shutdown continues past Feb. 1, she wasn’t certain that federal payments made for the veterans’ care would continue. 

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