US agencies urge creditors to be flexible with government workers

Government workers affected by the shutdown owe an estimated $438 million a month in rent and mortgage payments, according to Zillow (AFP Photo/NATALIE BEHRING)

Washington (AFP) - US banking regulators on Friday urged creditors to be flexible with government workers affected by the shutdown who may need more time to pay mortgages and credit cards.

About 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed without pay for three weeks in what soon will be the longest US government shutdown ever.

Five federal financial and state regulators encouraged institutions to work with consumers affected by the shutdown by modifying loans or extending new credit.

"While the effects of the federal government shutdown on individuals should be temporary, affected borrowers may face a temporary hardship in making payments on debts such as mortgages, student loans, car loans, business loans, or credit cards," the agencies in a joint statement.

And the regulators said prudent workout arrangements "are generally in the long-term best interest of the financial institution," and would not open them to additional scrutiny from bank examiners.

Bank of America on Friday announced a special hotline for any of its customers affected by the shutdown to help them work through any issues.

The bank also pledged $10,000 to a Washington-area charity that will help with food, rent and utility payments for idled workers.

Government workers affected by the shutdown owe a combined $438 million a month in rent and mortgage payments, according to the real estate firm Zillow.