Salt Lake City Council creates emergency loan program for federal employees as potential government shutdown looms closer

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski had pizza delivered to TSA and other federal employees to thank them for working at the airport without pay during the partial federal shutdown on Tuesday Jan. 22, 2019. The Salt Lake City Council approved an emergency loan program on Tuesday that will be available to future furloughed or unpaid federal workers as another shutdown looms closer.

As the threat of another government shutdown looms at the end of this week, the Salt Lake City Council approved an emergency loan program on Tuesday that will be available to future furloughed or unpaid federal workers.

The program will allocate $100,000 from the city’s general fund to provide one-time, no interest loans of up to $1500 to eligible workers during a shutdown. The loans will be available to federal employees who are members of households at or below 100 percent of area median income who live or work in Salt Lake City or who work at Salt Lake City International Airport, South Valley Regional Airport or Tooele Valley Airport.

“We’re talking about employees that work for the federal government but that we, as a city government, rely on to do operations together at the airports and in other parts of our community, like our watershed,” Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski told The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday. “So we want to be helpful and good partners, and we believe this is the right thing to do.”

The Salt Lake City Federal Employee Emergency Loan Program, which received unanimous support from the City Council at a limited formal meeting on Tuesday, is expected to help between 60 and 75 families. No fees or interest will be charged on the loans except in the event of a late repayment.

To receive the funds, applicants need to provide proof of federal wages with a recent pay stub as well as proof of household income. The money is not available to elected officers, relatives of elected officers or city employees who are involved in approving loan applications, according to city documents.

“I really appreciate the administration’s creativity and quick work to put this proposal together, and it is a wonderful thing that local government has found a way to do when the federal government is dysfunctional and that dysfunction is borne out on the backs of federal employees,” City Councilwoman Erin Mendenhall said Tuesday before the vote.

“If only municipal government could actually run everything, things would be much, much different,” Council Chairman Charlie Luke responded.

Utah, which has thousands of federal workers, was one of the hardest-hit states in the country during the most recent federal government shutdown over a budget impasse for more than $5 billion demanded by President Donald Trump for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. At 34 days, that shutdown was the longest in American history.

It ended on Jan. 24 when Trump agreed to reopen the government with a three week short-term spending bill that did not include funding for a border wall. Funding for a number of government agencies will lapse again Friday.

It appears another shutdown is unlikely after negotiators from the House and Senate agreed on a plan Monday that would provide $1.375 billion for fencing and other physical barriers at the U.S.-Mexico border, but the city said the funds for the loan would be available by Friday, if needed. The deal must still pass through the House and Senate and secure Trump’s signature.

“There was real concern about being able to pay bills [during the recent shutdown] and we didn’t have a good solution for that,” Biskupski said. “So we created this tool to help people pay bills and not potentially miss a health payment or a rental payment and have that threat of losing their house on top of everything. I think this is a great tool to help them through the potential of another shutdown.”