Government agency says letter advising furloughed employees to perform chores for landlords in lieu of paying rent was posted by accident

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty ImagesWASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 24: Trash begins to accumulate along the National Mall near the Washington Monument due to a partial shutdown of the federal government on December 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. The partial shutdown will continue for at least a few more days as lawmakers head home for the holidays as Democrats and the Trump administration cannot agree on an amount of funding for border security.
  • On Friday, the Office of Personnel Management tweeted three sample letters that furloughed federal employees could send to landlords, creditors, and mortgage companies to explain why, thanks to the government shutdown, they might be unable to pay their bills.
  • One of the letters suggested furloughed employees could offer to do chores and other services for their landlords in lieu of paying rent.
  • The suggestion was quickly rebuked on Twitter. A day latter, the OPM said the letters had been published by accident.

We are currently on day nine of the government shutdown which means that, for more than a week, federal employees have been working without pay – or not working at all.

For many, this means delays in bill and rent payments. On Friday, the Office of Personnel Management, a federal agency, shared three sample letters federal employees could send to their landlords, creditors and mortgage companies explaining why they would be unable to make their monthly payments thanks to the government shutdown. In one of the letters, the OPM told employees they should offer to do chores instead of paying rent.

“I would like to discuss with you the possibility of trading my services to perform maintenance (e.g. painting, carpentry work) in exchange for partial rent payments,” the sample letter to landlords said. On its tweet, the OPM told furloughed employees it could not provide legal advice and instead encouraged them to get lawyers if needed.

Read more:

‘We don’t know when his next check will come’: Federal employees are sharing how the government shutdown over Christmas is affecting their families

The rebuke online was swift. Soon after, on Saturday, the office told the Washington Post the letters had been posted by accident.

“OPM – itself acting with limited resources during the furlough period – inadvertently posted a legacy document from the 2013 shutdown,” the statement said. “Although most federal employees have yet to miss a paycheck, OPM recognises that many employees are concerned about the financial implications of a continued lapse.”

The three letters were originally shared to furloughed employees during the 2013 government shutdown. The letters, the OPM said, have been updated. The link on the original Tweet now leads to a download that makes two of the three letters available – the ones to creditors and mortgage companies.

On Twitter, users spoke up against the original letters, saying the suggestion that workers should do chores for their landlords in exchange of rent was insulting.

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