The House Financial Services Committee voted Sept. 20 to report legislation favorably to the House floor that would prevent federal employee credit scores from being impacted by financial difficulties resulting from a government shutdown.
“The shutdown directly affected nearly 3 percent of the entire U.S. labor force. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the shutdown cost the American economy $11 billion and delayed approximately $18 billion in discretionary spending for compensation and purchases of goods and services,” said Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the author of the bill.
“To help effected consumers, HR.4328 restricts the persons and companies who provide financial information — known as furnishers — and the credit rating agencies from including adverse financial information resulting from a government shutdown in the effected consumers’ credit profiles for the duration of the shutdown plus 90 days.”
The bill would not only cover federal employees at impacted agencies, but also federal contractors and those employees and businesses that self-certify that the shutdown has had a significant detrimental impact on their financial stability.
According to Waters, those that self-certify could include a food vendor that serves almost exclusively outside a federal agency to federal employees and sees a significant drop in sales because their usual customers are not at work.
The bill passed committee along party lines, and Republicans on the committee worried that the bill’s plan to create a database of impacted employees would hand credit reporting companies more personal information about consumers just after one agency was hacked for just such information.
“This bill is going to give information to the big three credit reporting agencies, the same big three credit reporting agencies that we criticized back in February on a bipartisan basis, one of which was the source of a breach that exposed the personally identifiable information for more than 100 million consumers,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C.
“Though the goal of this bill is a laudable one, the way it goes about doing that is quite troublesome.”
But according to Rep. Michael San Nicolas, D-Guam, the information that would be contained in the proposed database is already available for hackers to find elsewhere, so the security of feds’ data would not change materially.
McHenry suggested that the committee instead throw its support behind a bill introduced by Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., which instructs federal financial regulators to provide financial institutions with guidance on how to work with consumers to mitigate the impacts of a shutdown on their financial wellness.
But Wexton rejected the notion of using her bill to replace the more concrete requirements laid out in Waters’s bill.
“It is intended and it will work best as a complement to not a substitute for the legislation that Madam Chair has introduced today,” said Wexton.
Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.