'It lifted my spirits'

BERRIEN SPRINGS — Vivian Ahlers of Berrien Springs, a furloughed federal government worker, was uncertain how she was going to survive financially as the partial government shutdown is about to begin its fifth week.

"I was called on Dec. 20 and told to stop working," said Ahlers, who works for the U.S. Census Bureau collecting updated data in Berrien County. "No working means no pay."

Then representatives from Honor Credit Union, where she has had an account for 30 years, reached out to her, offering to advance her an interest-free loan in the amount of what her paycheck would have been.

"I called, and they processed it very quickly," she said. "The next day, I had what would have been my paycheck in my account."

She said she is very thankful.

"In addition to having funds to pay bills, it was a wonderful thing to feel supported," she said. "It lifted my spirits."

Ahlers said she won't have to start making payments on the loan for four months.

This isn't the first time she's been part of a government shutdown. Ahlers said the previous one – from about a year ago – lasted only a few days.

She said essential workers who are working without pay expect to get paid once the shutdown is over. But she said her situation as a nonessential worker is less clear.

"My supervisor said I might get paid or I might not get paid," she said.

Ahlers said she didn't get paid for the previous shutdown, but it was only for a few days, so she could handle it financially. This time it's different.

"It makes you anxious," she said. "You don't know how long you have to plan for. I have medical expenses, food to buy, the electric bill to pay. ... You want to keep everything taken care of. ... You make your plans on what your income will be and then have to come up with a Plan B."

Honor is one of at least 25 Michigan credit unions that is offering relief to members and non-members, according to a press release from the Michigan Credit Union League (MCUL).

MCUL states that some of the products and services many Michigan credit unions are offering include:

• Interest-only payments on existing loans

• No-interest loans (often for up to 12 months)

• Payment delays such as no-cost “skip a pay” on loans

• Waived-penalty Certificate of Deposit access

• Fee waivers on checking account overdraft fees

• Budgeting assistance

• Referrals to community assistance programs

“As not-for-profit cooperatives, credit unions serve their members and communities through good times and bad and especially when a crisis hits,” MCUL President and CEO Dave Adams stated in the release. “Michigan’s credit unions are joining with many nationally to step up for their members affected by this unfortunate government shutdown.”

Locally, United Federal Credit Union is also offering relief to its members employed by the federal government and impacted by the government shutdown. 

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege