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Did the shutdown wipe you out financially?

If you are a federal worker in New Jersey, this most recent government shut down might have wreaked havoc with your finances. But you don't even have to be a government employee to be adversely affected by this work cessation.

For instance, if you operated a food truck that served lunches daily outside of a federal courthouse that was shuttered or operating on only an unpaid skeleton crew, it's quite likely you took a hit just the same as the federal workers. For those Americans who are teetering on a financial brink and living paycheck to paycheck, an event like a government shutdown can be devastating to their financial security.

What you need to know

It may be possible to get a temporary reprieve on some or all of your bills. It's important to prioritize your needs when paying bills. You should make utility bills, and rent and mortgage payments first, along with setting aside whatever you can for groceries and other necessities like prescription co-pays.

Your credit card bills may have to wait right now. But let your creditors know what is going on with your situation. You might be surprised at the forbearance they are willing to extend because of the shutdown. Even if they expect you to continue making payments, you can ask that a note be entered into your file explaining why your payments are late.

You can apply for unemployment compensation

Many people don't realize that furloughed workers are able to file for unemployment benefits. Those who later receive back pay will have to repay the money but typically can set up payment plans for this to be done over a period of months.

Because funding for the agency that oversees the unemployment benefits program was secured before the government shut down, unemployment compensation benefits are unaffected.

Look into short-term loans

Some financial institutions are responding to the shutdown by offering low-interest short-term loans to furloughed federal employees. Applicants could even request a 60-day grace period to begin repaying the funds, although it is up to the discretion of each individual lender to agree.

When the bottom has fallen out

If the federal shutdown was the financial straw that broke your budget's back, none of the above suggestions may be enough to keep you afloat. If such is the case for you, it might be a good time to look into filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. While this should never be a first option, it remains a handy tool that can help you rebuild your credit with a clean debt slate.

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