The American Federation of Teachers has started an interest-free loan program for thousands of members affected by the partial shutdown of the federal government.

The AFT represents not only teachers but also other government employees, including corrections officers, firefighters, engineers and budget analysts who work in the Bureau of Indian Affairs and other tribal agencies. The union is offering one-year interest-free, no-credit-check loans of up to $1,500, with no payments due until after the shutdown has ended.

The union, which represents 1.7 million members in more than 3,000 local affiliates nationwide, created the program with the AFL-CIO Employees Federal Credit Union and announced it on the 20th day of the federal government shutdown. The union said about 5,000 members are affected by the shutdown.

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Some 800,000 federal workers have been caught up in the shutdown, which began Dec. 22 because of a stalemate between President Trump and Congress over his demand for more than $5 billion to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The affected workers are not being paid even though many are being forced to work because their jobs are deemed essential.

One affected AFT member is Dena Ivey, a furloughed probate specialist in the Anchorage office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. A single mother of a 9-year-old son, she is selling things on Craigslist to make money and has applied for unemployment.

Another is Tony Rowe, a corrections officer at Fort Totten on Spirit Lake tribal lands in North Dakota. He is working because his job is considered essential, but he is not being paid. He has six children and three grandchildren.

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