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Donald Trump

Paint for your landlord: US government’s ‘laughable’ advice to its unpaid workers during shutdown

  • Critics called tweet tone-deaf for telling furloughed workers to ‘consult with [a] personal attorney’ for legal advice
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 December, 2018, 10:32am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 December, 2018, 9:21pm

The agency that oversees the US government’s civilian workforce is facing scrutiny after suggesting federal employees affected by the partial government shutdown barter with their landlords if they can’t make rent payments, advice that has been called “laughable”.

On Thursday, the US Office of Personnel Management tweeted sample letters to help the roughly 800,000 affected workers negotiate with creditors and mortgage companies.

One letter, meant for employees to send to their landlords, discussed a temporary reduction in rent payments and further suggests “the possibility of trading my services to perform maintenance (e.g. painting, carpentry work) in exchange for partial rent payments.”

On CNN Saturday, Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, called the suggestion about trading services for rent payments “laughable” and “unfortunate”.

“I think it’s disgusting, candidly,” Reardon said.

He added: “It’s wrong to treat human beings this way”.

An estimated 350,000 workers are on furlough at home without pay due to the ongoing partial shutdown over Donald Trump’s demand for US$5 billion in funding for his proposed US-Mexico border wall.

The rest are working without pay due to the “essential” nature of their jobs. The partial shutdown was entering its ninth day on Sunday.

Critics on social media were also quick to express their discontent with the letter.

The Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine” shows OPM has offered similar advice for furloughed workers in the past, such as in 2015 when Barack Obama was president, as some pointed out.

In a Saturday statement, an OPM spokesman said the document was posted “inadvertently” and that the language was from the 2013 government shutdown.

The office “regrets any unintended concern caused by legacy documentation,” the spokesman wrote.

The Internet Archive’s “Wayback Machine” shows that OPM has offered similar advice for furloughed workers in the past, such as in 2015 when Barack Obama was president, as some pointed out.

Critics also called OPM’s tweet tone-deaf for telling furloughed workers to “consult with [a] personal attorney” for legal advice.

The partial shutdown is expected to last until at least the start of the new year. On Friday, Trump issued an order to freeze federal employee salary rates at their current levels in 2019. In a statement, Reardon likened the order to “pouring salt on the wound”.