City to help furloughed workers if government shuts down

HARLINGEN — If there’s another partial federal government shutdown this year, the city wants to help.

Earlier this week, city commissioners approved a resolution allowing the WaterWorks System to assist furloughed federal employees in paying their city utility bills.

“It’s making it easier on them because they’re not getting a regular paycheck at this time,” Mayor Chris Boswell said during a meeting Wednesday.

The resolution was approved 12 days after the nation’s longest government shutdown ended Jan. 25.

However, it will remain in effect this year in the event of another shutdown, Boswell said.

On Dec. 22, several federal agencies partially shut down because Congress could not agree on a spending bill to fund their operations.

The partial shutdown ended Jan. 25 after Congress agreed on a spending bill funding operations through Feb. 15.

The government could shut down again if Congress fails to agree on a new spending bill.

Across the country, many municipal utility systems helped furloughed federal workers during the shutdown that ran from Dec. 22 to Jan. 25.

“The intention of this resolution is to provide relief for furloughed federal employees during a federal government shutdown by giving them more time to pay their bills,” City Manager Dan Serna stated. “The resolution does not waive any balances but rather gives consideration to delay disconnections for nonpayment. This resolution will cover subsequent federal government shutdowns.”

The utility has no customers who were furloughed during the last shutdown, city spokeswoman Irma Garza reported yesterday.

However, the resolution gives furloughed federal employees 21 days to pay WaterWork’s $30 fee charged to reconnect utility services.

“The resolution delays payment for furloughed federal employees who show proof of their employment,” Garza stated. “They will not be disconnected during the furlough. They will still be responsible for the full amount but they will have 21 days from when the federal government closure ends to pay it.”