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Mesa extending utility bill payments for residents affected by shutdown

PHOENIX — A Phoenix-area city is extending a hand to residents who have been affected by the ongoing partial government shutdown.

The city of Mesa announced Tuesday — the 32nd day without pay for federal workers — that residents could apply to a program to defer utility bill payments until they receive backpay.

Residents who apply to the Federal Employee Assistance Program will need to provide a copy of their federal ID.

All late fees will be waived and non-payment turn-offs will be suspended for federal employees during the deferment period, the city added.

Once the government reopens, residents will be required to make their payment in full or make a payment arrangement.

“We know that (some residents), like many across the country, are having trouble making ends meet as the shutdown continues,” Mesa Mayor John Giles said in a statement.

“With that on our minds, we will make sure that no one loses their utility services as a result of this national crisis.”

At least 800,000 federal workers have not been paid during the shutdown. A state labor website lists Arizona with about 56,000 federal workers.

Some companies have already begun helping Arizonans impacted by the shutdown with their utility payments.

Arizona Public Service set aside $500,000 in its Crisis Bill Assistance program earlier this month for federal employees affected by the shutdown, and Cox Communications announced last week that it would extend payment deadlines for employees who can’t pay their bill.

Hospitality company Airbnb started a program to give extra money to federal employees in Arizona who open their homes for multiple days.

Phoenix-based St. Mary’s Food Bank has given free groceries to Grand Canyon National Park, Transportation Security Administration and Federal Aviation Administration workers this month.

RigaTony’s Authentic Italian Restaurant near Warner Road and McClintock Drive in Tempe is also offering free meals to federal workers who are out of work because of the shutdown.

The shutdown has been in place since Dec. 22 as Trump and Congress wrangle over his demand for the $5.7 billion he has said is needed to build the wall and secure the border.

Nearly 1 million government employees and contractors aren’t being paid. Many federal parks have also been closed and airport employees are calling out of work, causing delays.

Two weeks into the shutdown, a WalletHub ranking found that Arizona was among the hardest hit states in the nation.

A recent KTAR News/OH Predictive Insights poll found that nearly 46 percent of Arizonans do not support the move to shutdown the government, while 31 percent said they supported it.

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