Michael Hughes, a security manager at the Portland International Jetport, has worked without pay since the partial federal government shutdown began Dec. 22.

Hughes and thousands of other civilian federal workers in Maine did not receive their scheduled paychecks on Friday, putting them at risk of missing mortgage or rent payments and running out of food or heating oil.

“It was the first check that people did not get,” Hughes said. “Anybody who is not considered mission-critical is furloughed … and we have others who’ve been having to come into work and are still not getting their checks.”

With no end to the shutdown in sight, some financial institutions in Maine are offering relief in the form of low- or no-interest loans, loan deferments, fee and penalty waivers, relaxed lending standards and other temporary measures to help furloughed federal workers survive the shutdown.

Customers said those offerings are enabling them to make ends meet, at least for now.

Hughes, who lives in Limington, is a customer of Scarborough-based Town & Country Federal Credit Union, which is offering to loan federal workers the amount of their missing paychecks for up to 12 months at a low interest rate of 1 percent. The credit union also is allowing workers to skip payments on existing loans and is refunding overdraft and late fees.

‘IT WAS A HUGE SIGH OF RELIEF’

There are roughly 10,000 civilian federal workers in Maine, excluding postal workers, according to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

“Unfortunately, as the federal shutdown continues, the timing is difficult for people trying to pay for heat and holiday bills coming due,” said David Libby, president and CEO of Town & Country. “Our commitment is to help people get through financial bumps and challenges that happen in life, and this is certainly one of those times.”

Hughes said the low-interest loan will allow him to pay rent and an auto insurance bill for him and his son. He said having access to additional funds removes some of the anxiety from his current situation.

“It was just a good peace of mind to have that in there and paid, and still have a little bit of money for the daily stuff,” Hughes said.

Several credit unions and banks in Maine are offering similar assistance to their customers who have been affected by the shutdown, although the terms and conditions vary by institution.

“There are a number of credit unions offering a range of payment deferrals, hardship extensions and no- or low-interest rate loans,” said Todd Mason, president and CEO of the Maine Credit Union League. “We’ve been encouraging anyone impacted by the shutdown to visit their credit union, as each one is ready to help.”

Eliot resident Peter Goodwin, a manager for the Internal Revenue Service, said he and other furloughed federal workers are in a particularly difficult situation because they are not allowed to moonlight at other jobs without permission from their superiors, who are also furloughed and unable to respond.

Goodwin, a single father with five daughters, also sought help from his credit union, Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based Northeast Credit Union, which operates in Maine and New Hampshire. He was able to get a payroll advance to cover the funds from his missing paycheck.

“It was a huge sigh of relief,” Goodwin said. “I’m very fortunate that I chose to do the banking that I do at the place that I do.”

PROTECTION FROM ‘TOO MUCH DEBT’

Northeast Credit Union Senior Vice President Andrea Pruna said the credit union already has provided payroll advances totaling over $63,000 to 38 of its members affected by the shutdown. Northeast also has approved and disbursed seven low-interest loans, with more being processed, and granted 19 deferments on loan payments.

Pruna said the credit union originally intended those offerings as a one-time form of relief, but it is reconsidering that policy now that the shutdown has dragged on and will enter its 27th day Thursday, well beyond the previous record of 21 days.

“We thought the government would be open by now,” she said. “Now we’re going to be opening it up so the members taking advantage of it, they can come back in and then we can re-evaluate. What we want to do is protect them, as well, that they don’t get into too much debt.”

In addition to credit unions, several banks in Maine also are offering financial relief to their customers who work in the federal government. They include Bangor Savings Bank, KeyBank Maine and Katahdin Trust.

Katahdin Trust, based in Houlton, is encouraging customers who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the shutdown to contact their local branch to discuss their options until the federal government reopens. The bank already has helped several government employees by waiving fees, providing access to additional funds and offering deferments on existing loans.

“We realize the impact that the shutdown is having on our local community,” said Katahdin Trust President and CEO Jon Prescott. “We want our customers to know that we are here for them and ready to help in any way we can.”

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

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