- The Washington Times - Friday, December 28, 2018

The Trump administration is suggesting that furloughed federal workers “consult your personal attorney” to stave off creditors while they’re not being paid during the government shutdown.

The Office of Personnel Management posted sample letters on its website and Twitter account for federal employees to use to deal with landlords, mortgage companies or other creditors. OPM emphasized that the letters are a guide only.

“Unfortunately, we cannot provide you with personal legal advice,” OMP stated. “If you need legal advice to assist you in any response to creditors, landlords or the like, consult with your personal attorney or contact your state or county bar association, many of which maintain lawyer referral services.”

The line urging federal workers to “consult your personal attorney” prompted a derisive backlash on social media from people who wondered aloud how many government employees have a private lawyer.

OPM said workers should speak with their landlord, mortgage company or other creditor first before writing a letter seeking to lower monthly payments temporarily.

“Speaking with your creditors will enable you to work out the details of any payment plan that you can later confirm with your letter,” the agency said.

When writing a letter to creditors, OPM advised making sure to include the account number, address of the property, and a telephone number where they can be reached.

A sample letter suggests: “This is to confirm our conversation of (date) in which we discussed a temporary reduction in my monthly payment. 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 monthly payments, along with my other expenses.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said Friday that President Trump “has taken hundreds of thousands of federal employees’ pay hostage in a last-ditch effort to fulfill a campaign promise.”

“Building a wall from sea to shining sea won’t make us safer or stop drugs from coming into our country,” Mr. Durbin tweeted.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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