As the federal government shutdown drags on, Arizona’s Jewish Free Loan is ready to help furloughed employees.

“We want to get the word out in Arizona that if they’re a member of the Jewish community and they’re a furloughed government employee and are in need of cash flow for the next few weeks they can come to us,” said Tina Sheinbein, executive director of Jewish Free Loan (JFL). Other JFLs across the nation also are offering loans to government employees.

According to the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity, there are more than 58,000 people in the state employed by the federal government. Sheinbein said it’s still unknown how many federal employees will have access to JFL’s loan program. Leaders of other Jewish organizations that rely to some extent on the federal government, such as Jewish Family & Children’s Service and Jewish War Veterans, said they have yet to see any effects from the shutdown. 

JFL’s main role is to provide members of the Jewish community with emergency loans to help pay for such items as rent, food and medical care. All loans are interest free. Sheinbein said JFL has suspended its regular loan process for furloughed employees. Federal workers will not have to get a guarantor and go to the organization every two weeks to provide an update on their financial situations. 

“If you’re a furloughed government employee and you need the money today, we’re not making you wait to do our due diligence,” Sheinbein said. “We will fast track the applications. All we need is to see some identifying material that lets us know that you are a government employee.” 

In addition, furloughed federal employees will be encouraged to ask for larger amounts of money — between $3,600 to $5,000 — so they won’t have to visit JFL as often to access funds. Also, the requirements for paying back the loan are different for furloughed government workers.

“Traditionally, if you get a loan on Jan. 1, then usually the week of Feb. 1 is when we expect the first loan payment,” Sheinbein said. “However, in this case government employees are not going to have a paycheck in a month necessarily, or if they have their paycheck they will have so many things that they have to pay first. I have authorization from national Jewish Free Loan leadership that our date of repayment for furloughed government employees will start one month after they are back to receiving their pay.”

Currently, the cap for JFL loans to individual government employees is $10,000. If the shutdown continues for months, Sheinbein said the board of the International Association of Jewish Free Loans in American communities will have to discuss how to proceed and may have to ask the community for help.

“We are prepared for the short term and then we will begin planning on the long term implications of a lengthy government shutdown.” JN


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