STAR CITY — Furloughed federal employees living in Star City can hold off on paying utility bills until they receive a paycheck — and not be penalized — according to a recent decision from the mayor and town council.
Star City Mayor Herman Reid said he knows many people, including family members, who have not received a paycheck in almost a month because of the partial governmental shutdown.
The shutdown is in its fifth week, beginning Dec. 22, and it affects more than 800,000 federal workers.
Reid said he thought Star City needed to do something to help the affected federal employees living in the town.
According to Reid, utility bills affected include water, sewage, storm water and other city-billed expenses. They can be held for up to six months after federal employees receive their pay, without penalties.
“I just thought if Star City would do this, it would cause a trend across the county to do that,” he said. “Let the employees go buy food instead of paying for their water bill.”
Reid said he was glad the Morgantown Utility Board was enacting a similar policy to help employees.
“I have compassion for the workers,” he said. “My guys would come out and work for no pay if they had to, but when it comes down to feeding your families and stuff like that, that’s pushing the envelope. I don’t want to see these federal employees get to that point.
“I contacted council, and we were all in agreement this would be a small, kind gesture to do to help the federal employees that live in our town.”
Council member Cindy Ulrich said she responded to the suggestion as soon as she received the proposal.
“Basically, this is the longest government shutdown I think we’ve had in history, and it doesn’t look like there’s an end in sight,” she said. “So, when Herman made the suggestion to let those employed by the federal government pay their bills, whatever they can pay — it was a no-brainer.
“These poor people — we don’t know what their bills are, but they have to be paid. They have to buy food. If we can do our part by at least not making them pay their utility bills right away, whatever money they have they could put toward their food or their family members or whatever. Every little bit helps, and if it’s something we can do for our citizens — it’s really the right thing to do.”
Ulrich said Star City residents have great camaraderie in the town, and she said looking out for each other in the community was a priority.
“We really think our neighbors are more important than a dollar,” she said. “It has to be. You can’t put a price on everything. This is plain humanity, and this is what we are supposed to do. We are supposed to be there for each other.”
Any furloughed federal employee living in Star City can get additional information about the plan at Star City Town Hall.