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Norwich council approves tax interest waiver for furloughed federal workers

February 5, 2019

Norwich – Furloughed federal workers are back on the job – at least for now -- but recognizing they might still be struggling to pay bills after five weeks without pay, Norwich City Council voted unanimously Monday to grant them a property tax interest waiver.

A state law passed by the General Assembly and quickly signed by Gov. Ned Lamont on Jan. 22 allows cities and towns to grant waivers on the 1.5 percent annual interest on unpaid property taxes, which were due by the end of January. The statute defined “affected employees” and allowed for waivers of up to 60 days following the date when employees were no longer considered affected by the shutdown.

Federal workers returned to work Jan. 25 after 35 days of furlough, but many did not receive their back pay for several more days. Property taxes were due by Jan. 31, with interest starting to be accrued. A second shutdown is possible if Congress and President Donald Trump cannot agree on a spending plan by the Feb. 15 deadline.

Alderwoman Joann Philbrick asked if the current statute would apply if a second shutdown occurs. City Corporation Counsel said the state statute specifically addressed the shutdown that began Dec. 22. He said state officials might amend the language to add a future shutdown if necessary.

After a brief discussion on whether to postpone the vote until later this month to see if a second shutdown occurs, aldermen voted unanimously to support the waiver. Alderwoman Stacy Gould said it would be better to help “sooner rather than later.”

“We’re not forgiving anyone of their taxes,” pointed out Alderman William Nash.

Nash, who works in security at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, said he saw many furloughed workers struggling during the shutdown, some working as ride-share drivers and many using the food pantry set up at the academy.

Several other local cities and towns have approved or are considering the waiver at recent meetings. Local utilities and water companies also offered overdue bill interest waivers to customers who were furloughed federal workers.

Resident Rodney Bowie, the lone public speaker Monday, opposed the waiver as an unnecessary “extra piece of paper.” Bowie said furloughed federal workers were paid for their lost time, and many are well paid. He called it a “paid vacation” for them.

“Not one single federal employee lost a dollar,” Bowie said.

c.bessette@theday.com

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