Legislators have advanced a bill that would financially support state and federal workers during government shutdowns.

Under L.D. 2113, state and federal employees could apply for no-interest loans of up to $6,000 during a government shutdown that lasts more than a week.

Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, introduced the bill to support government workers after the federal government nearly shut down in October. Jackson said the legislation is an attempt to ease the financial pain of federal shutdowns, which the state has no control over.

“We may not be able to restart their paychecks, but we can ensure that they have access to funds to continue paying their bills until their backpay kicks in and their paychecks restart,” Jackson said in a statement following the vote.

In a public hearing on March 7, federal employees from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery told the Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee how previous shutdowns have left them without income even while some still have to work.

“Historically, we typically do get (back pay). But when you’re talking about weeks without a paycheck, it’s weeks of having to juggle which utility are you able to pay for month-to-month. Do you choose your rent, do you choose your food?” said Joshua Johnson, an outside machinist at the shipyard who worked without a paycheck for 35 days during a government shutdown in 2018-19.


The legislation advances as another potential partial federal shutdown looms. Congress has until March 22 to pass spending measures for Defense, Labor, and Health and Human Services funding. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard’s nearly 4,000 employees living in Maine would go without paychecks if elected officials don’t meet that deadline.

Maine has 11,855 federal civilian employees working at airports, with the National Guard, national parks, and at Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense offices, according to a September 2023 report from the Congressional Research Service. Roughly 40% of federal employees would have been furloughed last October, while the remaining 7,113 would have had to work unpaid.

Jackson’s original legislation would have triggered the loan program for federal workers after 14 days of a government shutdown. But lawmakers decreased that timeline to seven days and expanded the legislation to include state employees in the event of a state government shutdown.

The loans would not be based on an employee’s credit scores, and employees wouldn’t have to start paying back those loans for at least 90 days, depending on how long the shutdown lasts. After 180 days, when the no-interest offer expires, a lender could request repayment of the defaulted loan from the Finance Authority of Maine. The authority, called FAME, would pay lenders back from a pool of $250,000 in state funding and recover funds directly from borrowers.

The committee approved the legislation in a 7-4 vote. Reps. Gregg Swallow, R-Houlton, Robert Nutting, R-Oakland, Joshua Morris, R-Turner, and Scott Cyrway, R-Albion, voted against the bill. Two legislators were absent.

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