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The wealthiest nation in the world is telling nearly 800,000 public employees to "barter" for their rent during the Trump-imposed government shutdown.

The agency that oversees federal workers has some advice for the 800,000 furloughed workers who are nearing the third week without pay: Try bartering for your rent payment. Outrageous.

The Office of Personnel Management on Thursday provided sample letters that furloughed workers can send to their landlords in case they can't make their rent payments. One of the letters suggests the cash-strapped workers could barter handyman services in exchange for rent money. 

"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 letter states. It also asks the landlords if they would consider a partial rent reduction because of the government shutdown. 

Following are sample letters that you may use as a guide when working with your creditors. OPM is not able to provide legal advice to individual employees.

Things to consider:

  • Speak with your landlord, mortgage company, or creditor first before you write a letter. Just sending a letter may not be very effective as it will take a fair amount of time to get to the individual who needs to see it, if at all. Speaking with your creditors will enable you to work out the details of any payment plan that you can later confirm with your letter.
  • Be sure to send the letter directly to the person to whom you have spoken to confirm your request for a reduced payment plan.
  • Make sure that you have all the necessary information in your letter including account number, address of the property, and a telephone number where you can be reached.
  • Be sure to keep a copy of the letter. In some situations, you may want to send the letter by certified mail. You may also want to fax the letter to the company.

The suggested ways to get by without a salary while Trump forces a government shutdown were sent via tweet by the OPM Twitter account:

OPM also advised furloughed workers to "consult with your personal attorney" if they need legal advice in dealing with creditors. That earned some mocking replies on Twitter, with some pointing out that federal workers of modest means aren't likely to retain their own attorneys and that hiring an attorney would add to their mounting bills. 

"Speaking as one of those 'Feds,' it's nice of you to offer meaningless letters and suggest - while we have no pay coming in - that we incur legal expenses as well while we descend into debt. Thanks so much," one respondent wrote in response. 

Approximately 800,000 federal government employees are going without pay during the holiday season and continuing into 2019. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Republican) has indicated the shutdown could go on for weeks. While a majority of members of Congress and Trump's cabinet, including Trump himself, are millionaires and not dependent on their official salaries, the vast majority of public employees live paycheck to paycheck. Going without a salary for two weeks or more is detrimental to hundreds of thousands of families who struggle to buy groceries, pay rent or other bills.