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The Government Shutdown: What It Means For You

Plain language Q&A on the looming federal furlough

By Tricia Martin Apr 06 2011, 05:29 PM

YOU better find something else to do next week!

YOU better find something else to do next week!

If Congress cannot reach an agreement on FY2011 funding by 12:01 a.m. on April 9, Federal departments and agencies will be required to execute contingency plans for a lapse in appropriations. In laymen terms, there will be a "shutdown" or "furlough" (or as the guys here like to say, "National Lampoon's Federal Vacation!")

Should the government shut down, what does it mean for federal employees? OhMyGov sorts through the what if's and unknowns to find some answers.

Who is affected by the shutdown?

Only federal employees whose jobs are "necessary to protect life and property" and are needed to continue an "orderly shutdown of emergency operations" are essential.That includes most national intelligence staff, military personnel, air traffic controllers, law enforcement, emergency and disaster personnel, the Transportation Security Administration, Coast Guard and similar staff. Legislation has been introduced to continue pay for military during a shutdown. It is unclear if that legislation will pass before Friday's deadline. Federal employees who are paid a salary funded by appropriations monies will not be able to work and will have to take a furlough. During a furlough employees will not be allowed to go to work or to work from home. Each federal agency has plans to place to continue essential operations and services, but non-essential employees will have a force furlough -- that is, an "unpaid vacation." What's more, federal workers cannot take leave during a shutdown. The government has plans in place to continue health and life insurance during the shutdown for up to 365 days and 12 months. Essential staff and members of congress will be paid for working during a shutdown, because much like New York City, Washington rarely sleeps or really shuts down, but this pay will be applied retroactively only after Congress passes and the President signs a new appropriations bill or continuing resolution.

 

I'm being furloughed, will I get paid?

The short answer is maybe. Congress will asses whether "non-essential" employees will receive pay for the furlough time period. In the past when the government has shut down, employees forced to take furloughs have been paid retroactively. For some employees, unemployment benefits maybe available if the furlough is for an extended period of time. Employees should contact their state or District of Columbia unemployment offices for more information.

 

Has this happened before?

There have been nine government shutdowns between 1981 to 1995, lasting three days each. There were also six government shutdowns between 1977 and 1980, lasting from eight to 17 days. The longest government shutdown was in 1995 and 1996, during President Clinton's administration, lasting for 21 days.

 

What's the point of a shutdown?

It can be argued that there isn't a point. A government shutdown would be a result of the House, Senate and President not being able to compromise on the appropriations budget. Not having appropriated the necessary dollars to fund the government, the federal bureaucracy would be forced to suspend operations. The debate that has pushed us to the precipice of a shutdown is largely about the government spending too much money, but the shutdown itself will not save money. In fact, there is potential for major losses in an already weakened economy. In 1995 the six-day shutdown cost taxpayers nearly $800 million, including $400 million to furloughed federal employees who were paid but did not report to work, and another $400 million in lost revenue in the four days that the IRS enforcement divisions were closed.

 

Wait, the IRS enforcement divisions could close? Will the Taxman still cometh?

This year's taxes are due April 18. They will still be due regardless. Electronic filers will receive refunds via direct deposit. Paper filers will not receive refund checks until the budget impasse ends, but our donations to Uncle Sam will still be processed. And don't think you can use the excuse that the Post Office was closed. The U.S. Postal Service will continue operating. "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds," not even a government shutdown! The fact remains, some things just can't be avoided: death, taxes, junk mail, and government bickering.

 

The Office of Personnel Management has published guidance and information for federal employees on the potential furlough.

Follow @ohmygov and @bureaupat on Twitter for important updates.

Read More: Executive Office Of The President (EOP), U.S. Congress, Pay And Benefits, Surviving The Bureaucracy, Morale, Hot Issues, Taxes And Spending

 
 
 
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COMMENT

Mike
April 7, 2011 6:42 AM

I think you are omitting a major piece of information that would be valuable to most federal workers...That is the fact they will likely be eligible for unemployment...People should check out this page (www.ows.doleta.gov/.../unemcomp.asp)

Jayme
April 8, 2011 8:41 PM

Yes, but the most anyone in the state of TN will qualify for is $275 per week (before taxes). Either way, it's a lose-lose situation.

 

          


 

 
 
 


 

 

 

 


 



  






 

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