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Feds with student loans don’t get a break during the shutdown

Union members protest the government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON — Federal employees who are not getting paid during the partial government shutdown might run into more financial trouble if they have student loans they need to deal with in the meantime.

Student loan payments are still being collected because funding for the Department of Education remains intact.

Cumulatively, Americans owe more than $1.4 trillion in student loan debt.

“Everyone is still responsible for whatever payments that are due,” said Justin Song, a loan expert with the financial advice company ValuePenguin.

People who have problems making student loan payments during the shutdown should contact their loan service provider to discuss repayment options.

But that probably will not get them off the hook.

“Some people might take out student loans from smaller borrowers that might be a little bit more forgiving, but typically you’re going to still be required to repay,” Song said.

The shutdown has also made it more difficult for borrowers to make changes to their existing loans because nearly 90 percent of the workforce at the Internal Revenue Service has been sent home.

“If you want to refinance or switch to a different repayment plan, it’s likely going to require some cooperation from the IRS,” Song said. “A lot of those things are kind of put on hold because the IRS is so short-staffed.”

But there could be some help on the way from Capitol Hill.

A bill called “The Federal Employee Civil Relief Act” has been introduced in the U.S. House and the Senate.

The bill would protect federal employees and their families from loan defaults, foreclosures and evictions during a shutdown.

“This important legislation ensures that federal workers don’t face repercussions for making the hard choice between paying for basic necessities and paying their student loans,” said Virginia Sen. Mark Warner.

It would prohibit creditors and landlords from taking action against federal employees or contractors who are hurt by the shutdown and unable to repay loans or pay rent.

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