We have been contacted by some employees who have seen GoFundMe pages on the intranet and the news that appear to be federal employees seeking donations while they are furloughed or required to work without pay due to the lapse in appropriations. We have asked NTEU National if federal employees may use GoFundMe pages to seek donations if they are experiencing financial hardships due to the lapse in appropriations.
While we recognize how stressful and frightening it is to not know if and when we will be paid, under the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) rules, federal employees are generally prohibited from soliciting or accepting gifts based on or “because of” their official position. 5 CFR 2635.202. A gift that is given because of an employee’s official position and that would not have been given had the employee not held the status, authority, or duties associated with the employee’s position violates this ethical prohibition. Although we could find no OGE opinions on point, a GoFundMe page soliciting donations for a federal employee impacted by the lapse in appropriations would appear to violate the rule prohibiting employees from soliciting or accepting gifts based on their official position. By contrast, soliciting financial support from friends or relatives based on one’s personal relationship would not run afoul of this provision.
Some have asked if GoFundMe-type solicitations would be permissible if donations are limited to $20 or less. The $20 gift limit only applies to unsolicited gifts.
For these reasons, we advise employees to not use GoFundMe or other webpages to solicit donations. I understand the dire financial situations many of us are facing, particularly those who are excepted and therefore ineligible to apply for unemployment compensation. NTEU is currently working with Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) on legislation that would modify current rules that set obstacles to employees tapping into their TSP funds for relief.
Please contact your chapter president if you have additional questions or need further guidance.