AUGUSTA — Gov. Janet Mills said Thursday that she supports a bill that would offer guaranteed no-interest loans equal to a month’s net pay – up to $5,000 – for federal workers idled by the government shutdown.

The bill, introduced by state Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, is modeled after similar legislation passed in Connecticut that provides a state guarantee to banks who provide federal workers with interest-free loans of up to $5,000.

“This shutdown is exactly the type of gridlock and dysfunction that Maine people are tired of, and we will not stand idly by as Maine people suffer as a result of it,” Mills, a Democrat, said in a prepared statement.

She called on the Legislature to pass the bill as soon as possible.

About 1,100 Mainers are affected financially by the shutdown, according to a release from Jackson’s office. He said he hopes the legislation will help some of those unpaid workers avoid falling behind while they wait for the shutdown to end.

“This is a prime example of Mainers looking out for each other,” Jackson said. “If the federal government won’t step up, Maine people will – and that’s not limited just to legislative leaders. During the shutdown, we’ve seen everyday Mainers and small businesses step up to lend a helping hand. Whether it’s restaurants offering free or discounted meals or private citizens partnering to create a one-stop-shop online resource for federal employees.”

Banks and credit unions also offered support for the legislation.

“Credit unions are always in the business of ‘people helping people’ in good times and in bad, but our services become even more meaningful when our members face challenging situations like the federal government shutdown,” said Todd Mason, president and chief executive officer of the Maine Credit Union League.

Christopher Pinkham, president of the Maine Bankers Association, said banks also welcome the legislation and that many were already trying to help. “We encourage impacted customers to reach out to their financial institutions if they need assistance,” he said. “Our member banks across Maine are working with impacted customers depending upon each individual’s financial circumstances.”

The bill was also unanimously approved for consideration by the Legislative Council Thursday. To pass as an emergency measure, which would go into effect immediately, the bill would require two-thirds support in both the House and Senate.

Mills’ staff said she continues to monitor the impact of the federal government shutdown on state government. Earlier this month, Mills, along with Acting Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew, announced that the state’s Department of Health and Human Services is distributing federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, formerly known as Food Stamps, early for the month of February. About 180,000 low-income Mainers and the elderly receive SNAP benefits.

The Legislature also passed a nonbinding joint resolution calling on Congress to end the shutdown. The resolution was introduced by state Rep. Catherine Nadeau, D-Winslow, who said in a floor speech Thursday that her son, a Coast Guard veteran now employed by the U.S. Geological Survey, was affected by the shutdown.

“With each passing day, the burden on these workers and their families grows,” Nadeau said. “These workers, the people of Maine and our country deserve better.”

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 791-6330 or at:

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