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Where to get interest-free loans as the longest-ever government shutdown continues

Key Points
  • Amid the stalemate in Washington, credit unions and banks across the country are making accommodations for government employees.
  • Launch Federal Credit Union is issuing zero-percent interest rate loans of up to $3,000 to employees of the federal government.
  • Some banks also are waiving certain fees and allowing customers to break certificates of deposit early.
A man walks by One Chase Plaza in lower Manhattan
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With the government shutdown now in its third week, financial regulators are urging creditors to work with borrowers who may have seen their paychecks stop.

Federal workers unable to meet their mortgages, student loans or credit cards bills should be met with "safe-and-sound" lending practices, wrote a group of agencies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. The agencies, in a statement, encouraged financial institutions to consider "prudent efforts" to modify terms on existing loans or extend new credit to help affected borrowers.

Some 420,000 employees are considered "essential," and are working without pay, while 380,000 others have been ordered to stay home, according to calculations provided to CNBC by Paul Light, a professor of public service at New York University.

The shutdown's reach also fans out to some 4 million contractors for the federal government, many of whom are unlikely to be included in any legislation Congress passes to make sure federal workers are compensated for the period the government was closed.

Some of the more generous accommodations are coming from credit unions.

"Credit unions across the country are stepping up to help federal employees and families affected by the government shutdown," said Ryan Donovan, the chief advocacy officer at the Credit Union National Association.

Space Coast Credit Union is offering an interest-free loan to members experiencing a financial hardship because of the government shutdown.

Launch Federal Credit Union is issuing a zero-percent interest rate for loans of up to $3,000 to federal government employees. Navy Federal Credit Union is doing the same, but up to $6,000. For more information, check out its frequently asked questions page.

The U.S. Employees Credit Union is providing interest-free loans to impacted members for 60 days, regardless of their credit score.

Justice Federal Credit Union is offering unsecured loans with low interest rates to any impacted workers at the Department of Justice or Department of Homeland Security.

Credit union FedChoice will waive early-withdrawal fees on some certificates of deposit and issue short-term loans with interest rates as low as 2.50 percent. Among other requirements, you'll need to provide evidence of your furloughed status.

Banks also have special offers for government workers.

Provident Bank in New Jersey recently announced that it will cancel mortgage and credit card late fees for federal workers and allow them to break their certificates of deposit early without any penalties.

Huntington, a bank based in Columbus, Ohio, with some 960 branches across the Midwest, is offering a "low rate, quick loan program" for customers who are federal employees.

Tom Goyda, a spokesman for Wells-Fargo, said the bank is not offering any special loans for impacted customers. However, it will reverse monthly service and overdraft fees for those who are employed by a closed government agency.

"If the shutdown goes on, we will continue to review how we are working with customers whose incomes are impacted and make changes to ensure that we are providing them with the most appropriate assistance," Goyda said.

Chase is also waiving some fees for government employees who have direct-deposit set up. Credit card and mortgage late charges might also be dropped.

"Under certain scenarios for longer-term customers who consistently pay off their credit card balances in full, Chase could even consider reversing interest charges if they miss a paycheck," said Patricia Wexler, a spokeswoman for the bank.

Nami Baral, CEO of Harvest, a start-up that uses artificial intelligence to negotiate bank fees, will make its service available to federal workers for free until the government reopens. (Normally, the company gets 25 percent of any reimbursed charges.)

"Even when consumers' paychecks are delayed by a few days, they can rack up hundreds of dollars in overdrafts and late fees," Baral said.

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