Bank of Saipan will restructure payment schedules of government employees who have outstanding debts with the bank and would be furloughed under the government’s cost-cutting program. “If they’re furloughed and they have a loan with us we want them to see us and we’ll work on restructuring their loans. As soon as they find out they’re going to have their hours cut or furloughed pick up the phone or come down to the bank. We will absolutely 100% work with restructuring their loans ” Jon Bargfrede president and chief executive officer of the Bank of Saipan told the Journal.

Bargfrede said that restructuring loan payments is a matter of “doing the right thing” that other banks should also consider. “I think every bank should do the same.  We are all part of the community. When you know your customer is in trouble and hurting you should help. It’s doing the right thing It’s not their fault if they’re going to be losing their job or be furloughed ” he said.

Bargfrede said  approximately 30 government employees have a loan package with the bank. He said the total loan amount is “probably about a few hundred thousand dollars.”

The loans involve mortgages car purchases and home securities among others.

Restructuring would not entail an increased interest rate Bargfrede said.

“We’ll handle it on a case-by-case basis. Maybe we’ll skip one or two payments maybe we’ll extend the loan to lower the monthly payments. There’s a lot of different options. And we’ll definitely not increase the interest rate. If anything the rate might be reduced but definitely not increased ” Bargfrede said.

The government announced on Aug. 7 that more than 300 civil service employees have been notified that they will be furloughed from Sept. 1 to Sept. 30. The move is part of Directive 256 that Gov. Benigno R. Fitial issued on July14. The directive authorized the furlough of  1 200 civil service employees.

More notices will be issued according to Charles P. Reyes Jr. the governor’s public information officer.

The government is the Northern Mariana Islands’ biggest employer. It spends $76 000 an hour for its 5 000 plus employees which totals $6.8 million per two-week pay period. The government’s accumulated deficit is $155 million. Furloughing civil service employees is part of efforts to balance the budget before the fiscal year 2006 ends.

Mathilde A. Rosario director of the Office of Personnel Management said the furlough will be a “one-time” measure.

The administration looked into the possibility of reducing work hours but this was snagged because of legal concerns. The legislature for its part is working on a measure that would shut down all government offices on Fridays to reduce work hours of civil service and contractual employees by eight hours. MBJ