Buckleyites Keith and Jan Eldridge camped outside the Buckley Eagles last Saturday to collect food and money for the U.S. Coast Guard’s Seattle base, since Coast Guard members were furloughed during the last partial U.S. government shutdown. By the end of the day, they had a moving truck filled with food and nearly $1,700 donations. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

Buckleyites Keith and Jan Eldridge camped outside the Buckley Eagles last Saturday to collect food and money for the U.S. Coast Guard’s Seattle base, since Coast Guard members were furloughed during the last partial U.S. government shutdown. By the end of the day, they had a moving truck filled with food and nearly $1,700 donations. Photo by Ray Miller-Still

Local cities, school districts stepping up to ease financial burdens of furloughed workers

Waiving late fees for unpaid utilities is “the least we can do to help them out,” one council member said.

The longest-ever partial U.S. government shutdown may have ended late last Friday, but furloughed workers may still feel financial strain until they receive their first paycheck and backpay, which is expected to be by Friday, Feb. 1.

With that in mind, local municipalities and school districts have reached out to their areas’ furloughed workers, aiming to help ease their financial burdens until that time.

The Buckley City Council discussed how they can help furloughed workers in their area during their Jan. 22 meeting.

“We put it up on Facebook early, that for those workers, they can contact City Hall and we will work with them on payment arraignments,” said City Administrator Dave Schmidt, referring to a Jan. 15 post. “But neither the Mayor nor I have the authority to totally waive penalties and late charges for those people… I would ask the council, if you’re supportive of that, to make a motion.”

The council quickly obliged.

“That’s the least we can do to help them out,” Councilman Ron Smith said, before a unanimous vote carried the motion through.

The city of Bonney Lake made a similar announcement in a Jan. 23 blog post, letting furloughed workers and contractors know they meet the city’s guidelines for financial hardship and can apply to set up payment plans for water, sewer, and drainage utility bills, as well as waive payment plan set-up charges and down payments for past-due balances.

“This shutdown has impacted an estimated 800,000 federal workers, many of whom are our friends and neighbors here in Bonney Lake,” City Administrator John Vodopich said. “These furloughed workers are experiencing a financial hardship due to circumstances which are clearly beyond their control. By acknowledging this hardship, this allows the city to provide some assistance with payment arrangements or payment plans for those affected.”

The Sumner-Bonney Lake, White River, and Enumclaw school districts also announced that students of families affected by the shutdown are temporarily qualified for free and reduced-price meals.

“Like with all students, we would encourage families to terminate or update free/reduced price status when they are no longer facing economic hardship,” said Enumclaw School District Superintendent Mike Nelson.

While the shutdown was in effect, CHI Franciscan — which runs the Saint Elizabeth Hospital in town — waived the co-pays and deductibles for federal workers and their families at any of their affiliated hospitals, urgent care clinics, or primary and specialty clinics.

As of Jan. 26, however, CHI Franciscan announced their initiative is no longer in effect.

“In the event that the government shuts down again, CHI Franciscan will review the need for this initiative based on the financial hardship of those affected,” said Cary Evans, CHI’s vice president of communications and government affairs.

To contact the city of Buckley, call 360-829-1921. You can also contact Devon Boyle, the city’s head of utility billing, at 360-761-7810 or email him at dboyle@cityofbuckley.com.

To contact the city of Bonney Lake, call 253-862-8602, or contact their utility department at 253-447-4317.

To apply for free or reduced meals, contact the Sumner-Bonney Lake School District at 253-891-6450, Enumclaw at 360-802-7714, and White River at 360-829-3977.

CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, a quote from CHI Franciscan was misattributed to Deborah Warren. The article has been corrected to reflect it was said by Cary Evans.

Photo courtesy Keith and Jan Eldridge.

Photo courtesy Keith and Jan Eldridge.

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