Commerce Secretary Ross says unpaid federal workers should just get a loan

The comments unleashed criticism from Democrats as lawmakers were still trying to hammer out a way to reopen the government. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer tweeted that Ross’ comments were “unreal.”

And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, responded to Ross’ comments. “Is this the let them eat cake kind of attitude? Or call your father for money? Or this is character building for you? It’s all going to end up for you very well just as long as you get your paychecks?”

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, also a Democrat, called the remarks “tone deaf.” “I’ve been all over West Virginia, people are hurting,” he said. “They’ve got no cash flow. Making decisions, do I put gas in the car or do I feed the kids? This is real.”

Navy Federal Credit Union, the world’s largest credit union whose members include workers in the Coast Guard and other armed services and several government agencies, has a no-interest loan program that will cover half to all of a missing paycheck up to $6,000 per pay period with no credit check required. The catch is workers can’t get access to the loan program if they don’t have a direct deposit account there already.

Some 19,000 of the 100,000 or so Navy Federal members eligible for the program signed up to have their first paycheck covered earlier this month and more are expected to sign up for it to cover this week’s check, a spokesman said. He wouldn’t disclose how much money had been disbursed already.

“We wanted to make sure members have some financial certainty in uncertain times,” said Tynika Wilson, a senior vice president of debit card and fund services at Navy Federal.

Pentagon Federal Credit Union, with 1.7 million members, has two offerings. For affected workers who have an account with direct deposit already, it is offering a no-interest advance on an overdraft line of credit in the amount of the most recent paycheck up to $6,000. This is available to those who have been PenFed members for 12 months and a direct deposit coming from a furloughed agency.

PenFed also has an unsecured, fixed-rate loan for any affected federal worker. But this is subject to income verification and credit guidelines.

USAA Federal Savings Bank has a loan program for active Coast Guard and reserve and workers for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Public Health Service and their spouses. The offer is a one-time, low-interest loan of at least $2,500 at a 0.01 percent annual interest rate that can be paid it back over 12 months. It is subject to credit approval.

SunTrust, a regional bank in the Southeast, has a 90-day no-interest, no-payment loan for affected workers who are the bank’s customers as of the end of December. The loans are for $3,000 to $10,000, subject to some credit conditions.

— CNBC’s Jacob Pramuk and Dan Mangan contributed to this report.

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