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CCM, Towns Push Tax Relief For Unpaid Federal Workers Amid Month-Long Government Shutdown

CCM, Towns Push Tax Relief For Unpaid Federal Workers Amid Month-Long Government Shutdown

Hartford Courant, January 25, 2019 By Nicholas Rondineone 

With the federal government shutdown stretching past a month, officials in West Hartford and Rocky Hill are allowing unpaid government workers to delay tax payments as a local response to ease the burden of missed paychecks. Legislation passed by state lawmakers Tuesday provided relief to the federal workers namely in the shape of zero-interest bank loans backed by the state, but the bill also included a provision for cities and towns to allow the unpaid workers to delay their tax payments. Towns do not have to provide tax relief to the federal workers, but rather can opt-in.  

“Many of these federal workers are required to go to work, may not be able to look for other employment, are expected to be there and not be paid. And now it’s going on over 30 days now," West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor said during a town council meeting Tuesday.

There are about 1,500 federal workers in Connecticut that have been furloughed or are working without pay during the shutdown. It is not clear how many live in the municipalities that passed tax relief.

In most municipalities, Jan. 31 marks the due date for the second installment of property taxes — car taxes are typically collected at the start of a new fiscal year in July. Town officials in both towns approved measures that would waive interest fees and penalties for impacted federal workers who cannot make on-time payments.

The measure passed during a town council meeting Tuesday night in Rocky Hill with full support, Town Manager John Mehr said. He expected incidents in which payments were late would be rare given that many people pay their property taxes through their mortgage providers in the form of monthly installments attached to their mortgage bills. 

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In West Hartford, Republican town councilor Chris Barnes said he learned of the resolution several hours before the meeting. While he understood the pressure on the unpaid federal workers, he said he wondered about “other folks that are laid off or out of work that aren’t receiving the same type of attention.” Barnes noted there are hardship opportunities in the tax office and that residents can avail themselves of deferments. “There is a mechanism in place for people who are suffering from a hardship," he said.

Cantor and Deputy Mayor Beth Kerrigan refuted Barnes’s classification because federal employees face different circumstances than laid off employees — most have to report to work and cannot look for other jobs or receive unemployment benefits.  

It was not immediately clear Wednesday how many municipalities are working to provide tax relief for federal workers hurt by the government shutdown, but interest is strong, officials said.

“We know that the overwhelming number of our 168 member municipalities are in support of providing local tax relief assistance to furloughed federal workers in their communities; and we are working to assist our member towns in developing common language that could be used in such measures at the municipal level,” said Kevin Maloney, a spokesman for the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities.