Colorado’s Alpine Bank provides no-interest loans to furloughed federal workers

Scott Miller
Vail Daily
Alpine Bank locations in Colorado are offering no-interest loans to federal employees affected by the government shutdown.
File photo

EAGLE COUNTY — Alpine Bank is helping furloughed federal workers pay their rent and mortgages, and has set aside $5 million to do it.

Furloughed federal workers missed their first paychecks Friday, the result of a continuing partial federal government shutdown. That shutdown has affected the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies.

Continuing a program first used during the mid-1990s, Alpine Banks throughout Colorado will provide interest-free loans to furloughed federal workers. Those employees need to go to an Alpine Bank office, present a state ID, a federal ID and a copy of a federal pay statement or bank statement. Employees can receive money the day they apply and have six months to repay the loans.

The difference in this shutdown is the number of people who may use the program. Alpine Bank has long had a presence throughout the Western Slope. There are Forest Service employees in Eagle, Garfield, and Pitkin counties, along with employees from the Bureau of Land Management, the Transportation Security Agency and air traffic controllers.

There are many more federal employees in the Grand Junction area. Michael Brown, Alpine Bank’s Regional President for the Vail Valley and Steamboat Springs, said the last shutdown saw a number of people in Grand Junction take advantage of the bank’s previous programs for furloughed federal workers.

The bank in the past few years also has opened three branches in Denver and one in Boulder. That means the program may be used by many more people.

No matter where federal workers live in the bank’s service area, the program will be welcomed.

Local impact of the shutdown

Eagle and Holy Cross District Ranger Aaron Mayville has been the only person at the U.S. Forest Service office in Minturn for the past few weeks. Even then, Mayville only goes to the office to shovel snow, water the plants and feed the fish.

Reached Friday by phone, Mayville was taking a break from a part-time interior painting job he’d picked up at the Sandstone Creek Club in Vail. Mayville also has been in training to pick up a few server shifts at Benderz South restaurant in Avon.

“I’ve got to put food on the table,” Mayville said.

Mayville praised the bank program and said he’s already heard interest in it from some of the district’s employees. Mayville is in regular contact with most of those people. He said some are skiing — at their own expense. Another went to visit family. Others also have picked up part-time jobs in the valley.

“If (the shutdown) goes much longer, people will have to take advantage of (the program),” Mayville said.

“These things force our folks to live off credit or savings,” Mayville added. The Alpine program will help people get through the shutdown without tapping those resources too much, he added.

There’s another local aid available to furloughed federal workers.

Tsu Wolin Brown, director of the Salvation Army Vail Valley, said the group’s food pantries are open to anyone in need. There’s also some cash assistance available for help with rent or utility bills.

There also are community meals in the valley.

Eagle River Presbyterian Church in Avon hosts a free community dinner every Wednesday from 6 to 7 p.m. In the western part of the valley, the United Methodist Church Eagle Valley in Eagle every Monday hosts a “simple supper” at 6 p.m.

Brown said that, like the community dinners, all are welcome for the loan program.

“We welcome those affected federal workers, whether they’re customers of Alpine or not,” Brown said. “We’ll loan them their next paycheck, and no collateral is required.”

In the past, people who have used the program have ranged from existing Alpine Bank customers to those who walk into the branches for the first time.

While the current loan program may bring a few new customers to the bank, Brown said that’s a secondary consideration.

“We’re responding to the needs of communities,” Brown said, and federal workers are part of those communities.

“It’s time to cut through the party politics, and help regardless,” he said.