While the president and Congress reached a tentative deal Friday afternoon to temporarily reopen the federal government, many Loudoun towns, businesses and organizations continue to help those who have been impacted by more than a month without pay.
The deal would open the government until Feb. 15, ending the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history. It would give lawmakers time to find an agreement on the president’s proposal for improved border security. President Trump said this afternoon that he asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to “put the proposal on the floor immediately” and said that he would sign the bill “in a short while.”
As the shutdown stretched into its 35th day today, about 800,000 government workers missed another paycheck. And it had nonprofits, businesses and government leaders coming up with creative solutions to help out federal employees and contractors.
The attorneys at the law firm of Dunlap, Bennett & Ludwig, which has an office in Leesburg, are lending a helping hand to federal employees who are worried the shutdown could impact their credit ratings—and then their livelihoods, by threatening their security clearances.
The firm is veteran-owned and led, and as one of the few firms with legal expertise in defending security clearances, is offering free consultations to federal employees and contractors who are worried their security clearances may be affected by a drop in their credit rating after missing paychecks and consequently bills.
“These people are in a catch-22 where their ability to meet their obligations has been compromised by the government, who also issues the clearance,” said partner Ellis Bennett, a former Judge Advocate General’s Corps or JAG officer.
Losing a security clearance can be devastating for a federal employee or contractor, who can find themselves no longer allowed to do their life’s work.
“Typically the key in any clearance case is being able to demonstrate to the government that you’ve being responsible,” Bennett said. “So my advice to them would be to do the best to meet your obligations, and if you can’t, document why not.”
Financial problems and debt are a common reason people see their security clearances called into question or cancelled. Bennett said federal employees and contractors should be able to demonstrate that they have reached out to their creditors and so a good-faith effort to meet their obligations.
“The reason for doing all these things is that these are essentially mitigating factors, and your obligation on a clearance is to show good faith and that you’re trying to do the right thing and be responsible,” Bennett said. “So the more they can do, the more proactive they are, the less chance it’ll impact their clearance.”
He said if people with security clearances are proactive and create documentation of the steps they took to attempt to meet their obligations, it will help them down the road.
“Hopefully we can help some folks out with this,” Bennett said. “I think it’s a situation where a lot of folks could be affected by it, and a lot of people probably who are impacted by it may not see that impact until a year or two down the line when their periodic review comes up.”
And being ready for that review means “one less headache for them to worry about down the line which would really impact their livelihoods,” Bennett said. “The last thing any cleared individual wants is to have any blemish on their records.”
Dunlap, Bennett & Ludwig, like other companies, have also extended a grace period to their clients who are federal contractors on paying their invoices. Partner Tom Dunlap said that idea came after some clients said they would have trouble affording the firm’s services, including its patent work.
“I’ve had clients reach out to me about postponing payment,” Dunlap said. “I got the idea from one client who literally said, ‘we’re going to defer legal work.’ I said, don’t defer your legal work, we’ll just postpone.”
The firm will allow federal contractors 60 days from the end of the shutdown to pay their invoices.
Dunlap, Bennett & Ludwig can be reached at 703-777-7319.
Here’s a snapshot of some of the other help being offered to federal workers and government contractors in the coming days.
The county Board of Supervisors voted Jan. 9 to send up to $25,000 to local food pantries as needed, and is waiving bus fares for unpaid federal employees who have to go to work.
All seven of Loudoun’s incorporated towns are offering payment plans so that affected residents are not overburdened when trying to make utility and other town payments.
Hillsboro Mayor Roger Vance extended an offer to delay payments for town services without penalty beginning Jan. 13. “It’s the least we can do,” Vance said.
Hamilton Mayor Dave Simpson took a straw poll before the Jan. 14 Town Council meeting and received unanimous support to defer payments for residents affected by the shutdown until a later date. The town will also not charge them late fees. “We’re just taking care of them any way we can within the limit of the law—that’s what small towns and neighbors are for,” Simpson said.
Round Hill Town Administrator Melissa Hynes said that the town offers payment plans for residents in precarious financial situations year-round, not just during the shutdown. “It’s just the way we do business,” she said.
The Lovettsville Town Council voted unanimously Thursday night to authorize Town Manager Rob Ritter to defer water and sewer payments for residents affected by the shutdown—which could include Mayor Nate Fontaine, since he is a federal employee currently not being paid—until 45 days after the Federal Government reopens. It also voted to suspend any discontinuation of utility service for those residents and to waive their late fees. “I think this is an appropriate and unfortunate response from the town,” said Councilman Mike Dunlap.
Middleburg Town Administrator Danny Davis said that the town intends to extend utility bill deadlines for furloughed workers until 30 days after the government reopens and to create payment plans for residents with fixed or limited income—something that the Town Code gives Davis the authority to do without a Town Council vote. “I would consider this a limited income situation,” he said.
Purcellville Town Manager David Mekarski said the town is offering affected residents extensions on town payments and waived late fees. He said that town staff would work out payment plans with those residents out on a case-by-case basis. “We are here to help any citizen that is on federal furlough,” he said.
The Leesburg town staff has assured the Town Council that it would work with residents affected by the shutdown on a case-by-case basis.
To be eligible for assistance in all seven towns, residents must demonstrate that they’re employed by the Federal Government or a federal contractor and that their pay has been affected by the shutdown.
Businesses and Organizations
Several of the county’s businesses and nonprofits have also recognized an opportunity to lend a helping hand by either offering discounts or free services.
Loudoun Hunger Relief will hold a pop-up market for all residents affected by the shutdown from 9-10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 26 at St. Andrew Presbyterian, 711 W. Main St. in Purcellville. The pantry will allow affected residents to pick up fresh produce, milk, eggs, meat, proteins and other food. It will also allow residents to stop in twice a month at its location at 750 Miller Drive Suite A1 in Leesburg. Call 703-777-5911 for more information.
Chantel’s Bakery will be distributing free turkeys to local furloughed federal workers and federal contractors. Those interested can pick up a free turkey from 3-5 p.m. this Sunday, Jan. 27 at 100 Executive Drive Suite B1 in Sterling.
Potowmack Farm in Lovettsville will serve a free brunch to furloughed federal workers and contractors between 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27. Reservations are required and seating is limited. To be eligible, government employees and contractors are asked to present a federal I.D. For more information, visit patowmackfarm.com.
Delirium Café and Balls of Glory in Leesburg announced on Friday that they would offer free lunch and dinner for those affected by the shutdown. To receive a free meal, customers should present a government I.D. or other verification showing that they’re a federal worker. For more information, visit deliriumcafe.us or Facebook.com/meatballsofglory.
Valley Energy announced this week that it is “ready and willing” to work with furloughed federal employees during the shutdown “to help ease the burden” on them. To work out a payment plan, call Bill Cleary at 540-338-6457.
InForm Fitness this week also announced that it would not charge any of its client affected directly, or indirectly via their spouses, by the shutdown for any of their strength training sessions at their locations in Leesburg or Reston. Every fitness trainer will also receive full pay for each session delivered, as a “defiant protest” to the shutdown. Clients are asked to contact Owner Nicole Gustavson at 703-791-1717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Conference Center near Lansdowne announced last week that it would serve free breakfast, lunch or dinner to Loudoun’s furloughed federal workers and their families inning at 7 a.m. Monday-Friday until the Federal Government reopens. The center is also working with the Board of Supervisors to provide meals to Loudoun’s 20,000 furloughed federal workers. To eat a free meal, residents are asked to present a federal I.D. at the front desk.
Hunter’s Head Tavern in Upperville announced last week that it will provide a 30 percent discount to federal government employees and their families until the government reopens. To get the discount, customers must show a current, valid government I.D. For more information, visit huntersheadtavern.com.
Sky Zone trampoline park in Sterling announced last week that it’s inviting furloughed federal employees and up to three of their immediate family members one free, 60-minute jump every Thursday until Jan. 31. To be eligible to jump, federal workers are asked to present a valid government I.D. For more information, visit skyzone.com.
And Easterns Automotive Group Director of Marketing has committed to donate $10,000 a week to Loudoun food banks each week the shutdown continues.