OPM: Who Does and Does Not Get Paid During a Shutdown

By on April 5, 2011 in Human Resources, News

The Potential Impact of a Lapse in Appropriations on Federal Employees

Updated: Friday, April 8, 12:45 PM CDT


The President has made it clear that he does not want a government shutdown, and the Administration is willing and ready to work day and night to find a solution that all sides can agree with. That said, given the realities of the calendar, prudent management requires we plan for an orderly shutdown should the negotiations not be completed by the end of the current continuing resolution.

If the current continuing resolution expires at 12:01 a.m. on April 9, 2011 without passage of an FY 2011 appropriations bill or a further continuing resolution, Federal departments and agencies will be required to execute contingency plans for a lapse in appropriations (more commonly referred to as a “shutdown”). These contingency plans detail which agency activities are allowed by law to continue to operate, and which activities must stop. Employees whose salaries are funded through annual appropriations will not be able to work and will be furloughed, unless their duties qualify under the law as “excepted” to continue to work during periods of lapsed appropriations. During a shutdown, non-excepted employees are not permitted to work as unpaid volunteers for the government.  Any paid leave (annual, sick, court, etc.) approved for use during the furlough period must be cancelled.  An excepted employee who is absent from duty during the shutdown must be furloughed during such an absence.

Federal agencies do not have the authority to pay their employees during a shutdown, regardless of whether the employees are working as “excepted” or furloughed as “non-excepted”.  “Excepted” employees will receive pay for hours worked when the Congress passes and the President signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution. Congress will also determine whether “non-excepted” employees will receive pay for the furlough period.

Federal employees’ health benefits continue during a period of lapsed appropriations lasting less than 365 days, regardless of the “excepted” or “non-excepted” status of the employee. Federal Employees Group Life Insurance coverage continues for up to 12 consecutive months while in a non-pay status without cost to the employee or the agency. Both Federal Long Term Care (LTC) and Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Plan (FEDVIP) deductions will cease for “non-excepted” employees.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a furlough?
A furlough is the placing of an employee in a temporary nonduty, nonpay status because of lack of work or funds, or other nondisciplinary reasons.

Q: What is a shutdown furlough and why is a shutdown furlough necessary?
In the event that funds are not available through an appropriations law or continuing resolution, a “shutdown” furlough occurs. A shutdown furlough is necessary when an agency no longer has the necessary funds to operate and must shut down those activities which are not excepted pursuant to the Antideficiency Act.

Q: Who are Excepted Employees?
In the context of shutdown furloughs, the term “excepted employees” is used to refer to employees who are funded through annual appropriations who are nonetheless excepted from the furlough because they are performing work that, by law, may continue to be performed during a lapse in appropriations. “Excepted employees” include employees who are (1) performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, (2) performing minimal activities as necessary to execute an orderly suspension of agency operations related to non-excepted activities, or (3) performing certain other types of excepted work. Agency legal counsels, working with senior agency managers, are determining which employees are designated to be handling “excepted” and “non-excepted” functions. 

Other employees are “exempt” from furlough because they are not affected by a lapse in appropriations. This includes employees who are not funded by annually appropriated funds. It also includes those Presidential appointees who are not subject to a Federal employee leave system-i.e., who are entitled to an annual salary without consideration of the hours of duty required and thus cannot be placed in nonduty/nonpay status. (NOTE: Non-career SES and Schedule C employees do not fall into this category.)

All other employees funded through annual appropriations are not able to work during a “shutdown” and will be furloughed.

Q: How will employees be notified whether they have been designated to be handling “excepted” or “non-excepted” functions?
Each Agency will communicate with its employees regarding the method and timing of notification of whether they have been designated as an excepted or non-excepted employee.

Q: Are all employees who qualify as “emergency employees” for the purpose of weather emergencies considered to be “excepted employees” for the purpose of a shutdown furlough?
Not necessarily. “Emergency employees” are those employees who must report for work in emergency situations-e.g., severe weather conditions, air pollution, power failures, interruption of public transportation, and other situations in which significant numbers of employees are prevented from reporting for work or which require agencies to close all or part of their activities. Emergency employees are not automatically deemed excepted employees for purposes of shutdown furloughs. Each agency must determine which employees are excepted employees.


Questions regarding working during a furlough:

Q: May an employee volunteer to do his or her job on a non-pay basis during a shutdown furlough?
No. Unless otherwise authorized by law, an agency may not accept the voluntary services of an employee. (See 31 U.S.C. 1342.)

Q: May employees take other jobs while on furlough?
While on furlough, an individual remains an employee of the Federal Government. Therefore, executive branch-wide standards of ethical conduct and rules regarding outside employment continue to apply when an individual is furloughed (specifically, the executive branch-wide standards of ethical conduct (the standards), at 5 CFR part 2635). In addition, there are specific statutes which prohibit certain outside activities, and agency-specific supplemental rules that require prior approval of, and sometimes prohibit, outside employment.  Therefore, before engaging in outside employment, employees should review these regulations and then consult their agency ethics official to learn if there are any agency-specific supplemental rules governing the employee.


Questions regarding pay:

Q: Will excepted employees be paid for performing work during a shutdown furlough?  If so, when will excepted employees receive such payments?
Agencies will incur obligations to pay for services performed by excepted employees during a lapse in appropriations, and those employees will be paid when Congress passes and the President signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution. 

Q: Will employees who are furloughed get paid?
Congress will determine whether “non-excepted” employees receive pay for the furlough period.


Questions regarding leave:

Q: May an employee not excepted from the furlough take previously approved paid leave (e.g., annual, sick, court, military leave, or leave for bone marrow or organ donation) during a shutdown furlough? 
No. All paid leave during a shutdown furlough period must be canceled because the requirement to furlough supersedes leave rights. The Antideficiency Act (31 U.S.C. 1341 et seq.) does not allow authorization of any expenditure or obligation before an appropriation is made, unless authorized by law.  Paid leave creates a debt to the Government that is not authorized by the Act.  Therefore, agencies are instructed that during a shutdown furlough, all paid leave must be canceled.

Q: May an excepted employee take previously approved paid leave or be granted new requests for paid leave during a shutdown furlough?
No. When an excepted employee is not working or not performing excepted activities in compliance with the Antideficiency Act, he or she cannot be in a paid leave status. Excepted employees must be either performing excepted activities or furloughed during any absence from work. The furlough must be documented by a furlough notice. If an excepted employee refuses to report for work after being ordered to do so, he or she will be considered in an absence without leave (AWOL) and will be subject to any consequences that may follow from being AWOL.


Questions regarding benefits:

Q: Will an employee continue to be covered under the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program during a shutdown furlough if the agency is unable to make its premium payments on time?
Yes, the employee’s FEHB coverage will continue even if an agency does not make the premium payments on time.

Q: What effect will a furlough have on other benefits that are paid for through payroll deductions?
The effect of a furlough on benefits that are paid for through payroll deductions varies.  For additional information, see OPM’s fact sheet on the “Effect of Extended Leave Without Pay (or Other Nonpay Status) on Federal Benefits and programs at http://www.opm.gov/oca/leave/HTML/LWOP_eff.asp.


Questions regarding unemployment compensation:

Q: Are employees entitled to unemployment compensation while on furlough?
It is possible that furloughed employees may become eligible for unemployment compensation. State unemployment compensation requirements differ. Some States require a 1-week waiting period before an individual qualifies for payments. Agencies or employees should submit questions to the appropriate State (or District of Columbia) office. In general, the law of the State in which an employee’s last official duty station in Federal civilian service was located will be the State law that determines eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits.  (See the Department of Labor website “Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees” at http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/unemcomp.asp.)

© 2016 FedSmith.com. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from FedSmith.com.

48 Replies

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  1. Just Me says:

    All of Congress is to blame. They speak with forked tongue and aren’t concerned about the consequences of rampant corruption, greed, self-interest, etc. Guard your capital.

  2. Gov Employee says:

    This will be my first government shut down and my last. When the dust settles I will attend nursing school. Bills don’t stop coming because we can’t work.

  3. PitbullDad says:

    Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said Congress is ESSENTIAL and will be paid because they have to work on the budget, that the Dems should have passed in September 2010 when they controlled the House, Senate, and White House, but didn’t have the cahunas to do so because they were afraid of voter repercussions regarding their BIG SPENDING. Well it happened anyway and they still insisted on more spending in the lame duck session.

  4. Kathy Bowman says:

    I support federal employees during this confusing and annoying time. I have a few very lower graded friends who are term or seasonal employees – and will be checking to see how I can help them with my limited retirement income… most specifically the folks on disability which is 2/3 what I get. Good luck to you all.

  5. Kathy Bowman says:

    How about retirees? We paid into a fund that is disbursing money back to us – is that affected by annual budget? Thank you.

  6. Lightfoot says:

    US Civil Service retirees, military retirees, and social security retirees will continue to be paid and a government “shut down” has no effect on any of these three separately funded retirement systems/accounts which are not subjec to annual appropriations process.

    This point is seldom if ever mentioned but needs to be set aside as not a problem area.

  7. who is really at fault says:

    There are two sides of a budget: revenue and expenditures.
    Like the Wizard of Oz, Corporate America are telling their paid for legislators to put the middle and working class in the middle of the Blame target and we all are at each other’s throats. Why this class war? To take our attention away from the fact that 2/3 of the US Corporations pay nothing to the US. They expect us to carry their water. The Wizard is frantically spinning his wheels, throwing leavers and shouting into a mike and the image (legislator) spew fire and hate.
    We need a Toto who has the power to expose the Corporate Wizards for what they are doing. 60 Minutes went to a small village called Zug Switzerland and the Economic Development Commissioner (and lawyer) there smiled and said they collect 18% Corporate taxes and many companies from the US register their business there. They provide no support like infrastructure or anything, just a discount taxing agency. A dozen companies shared a post box that was empty and no one in the building knew who they were. Shortly before the airing, 60 Minutes did report that 9 or 10 executives did move to Switzerland. House or hotel room? Ireland charges 11% and do some drug manufacturing.
    The point is these Corporations live and operate very well in the US and would rather pay Switzerland and Ireland taxes from profits earned here in the US. In fact I read that Goggle did a paper transfer and moved their source code to Bermuda and was given tax free status on all of their earnings.
    The Legislators (the Right) owe us a level playing field. Bush and company drove this ship aground with tax cuts for his kind and ran up a major debt. Wasn’t TARP Bush’s thing?

  8. jccoop32 says:

    I think its a damm shame, should the government shuts down. There is so much waste of funds in the government. For example, a war in iraq, that did not need to happen, getting envolved in business outside of the United States. I say take care of your family before you take care of others. There is unemployment, homeless, a weak school system and secuity force as examples.

  9. jccoop32 says:

    If the government shuts down, no one in government should be paid. that means, congress, the president of the United States etc,etc.

    • PitbullDad says:

      No, per Steny Hoyer, Congress is ESSENTIAL, to work on the budget they should have passed in September 2010.

  10. Goldkeyper says:

    Will retirees received pay on the first of the month …… if the shut down lasts that long? Linda

  11. guest says:

    maybe it’s time NSA earn their pay checks and visit the dems and republicans – treat them as the terrorists they are for holding US citizens hostage EVERY YEAR!

  12. Deb says:

    Folks, this is not a Democrat nor Republican issue, but an American issue. As a government employee, we should be in tune with the process. Our form of government was designed for this type of debate. When this debate does not occur, then we get 2,000+ pages of bills passed that no one has read. This also balances power rather than giving current ‘leader’ sole power. Over the history of our nation we have had groups try and change our form of government during times when one party controlled both house and senate. Often many of these get reversed because citizens get angry and vote the controlling party out of office. This creates a pendulum swing to the opposite side. Given a year or two things will balance out and we will experience a growth in the private sector that will satisfy many citizens until the next time.
    Peter Drucker said: “Most discussions of decision making assume that only senior executives make decisions or that only senior executives’ decisions matter. This is a dangerous mistake.” The discussions going on now over the budget always should occur, if not then group-think mentality sets in, and our nation is at risk of changing just because a popular individual got elected. People fear Sarah Palin, because she was so popular, but said things that needed to be discussed regardless of how it would impact her election. Meanwhile Barack Obama also very popular told folks what they wanted to hear got elected. They both scared folks on both sides, but they both also have improved the discussion of what form of government our nation wants to continue with. This budget process is part of that discussion.

  13. Bill Mehler says:

    Our elected representatives continue to astound me…they reason and posture as spoiled little children…During the Kennedy administration Vaughn Meeder created a comical LP record album, a part of which contained a skit with Bobby Kennedy picking up and carrying away the family football in a snit over a supposed infraction: “I,m taking my ball and going home!”…I believe we ought to return the brats from whence they came…for me it will become a cherished November activity!!!!!!!!

  14. Victoria Richards says:

    This is just crazy. How are we suppose to live? Gas has gone up and we are required to come to work. This is the second hit that the Federal Employees have taken this year. Maybe they should all work for free up in Congress and pull all of our troops out of the “War Zone” to save our country some money. We have our nose in too many other country’s business. They need to fight their own war or fund us for our help. I am a single mother of two sons, one died a year ago and I have no other income. What are we to do???? Obama needs to get a clue how to run this country. Not that others have done alot better, but our government is the heart of how this country is ran and to target us is not a smart idea.

  15. RG says:

    The Dems failed to pass the budget before this set of Republicans came in. Now they (the GOP) are doing what they promised and the Dems are crying foul? If they had passed the budget last year this would all be moot. However they wanted to leave the dirty-work of cutting the budget to the GOP. Well, the GOP is keeping it’s promise to the people. How is that wrong?

    • PitbullDad says:

      This is absolutely right. The Republicans are doing exactly what the voters in 2010 mandated that they do.

  16. GUEST says:

    When the government shut down back in the mid nineties, we all got paid for the days we were furloughed. If we do get furloughed this time around, enjoy the time off.

    • Wolfdragon says:

      Don’t count on getting paid this time. In this political climate it could be you get a nice unpaid vacation and then haver to try to make it up when this is all over and done.

      Personally I blame both parties for this mess. Both have had chances to correct this disaster for deacdes. Instead both parties have spent, spent and spent some more. Neither party tried to stop the spending. Now we are in a political climate that is Anti-Government. The sad thing is that Federal Employees are being combined with State Employees. Most Federal Employees I know pay out a lot for their health insurance, while state employees pay little to nothing on their insurance. Most Federal Employees pay 7 percent or more on their retirement, while state employees pay nothing on their Retirement. I don’t know of a federal employee in my arera who makes 6 figures, even with benefits. Most I know make 40K to 60K gross, and if they have insurance, taxes, life insurance and so forth taken out, bring home 52% to 60% of their pay. I know state employees who bring home much more than that. Most bring home 70% to 80% of their gross pay. Most only have taxes and Social Security taken out of their pay. I live in a right to work state, so Unions can’t force anyone to join them, but non-union members do get the benefits that union members get.

      Bottom line is this, Both parties are at fault. None of them are immune to the problem. Both Dems and Repubs are to blame. It is too bad that neither side is going after what really needs to be gone after. It is not Federal Employees, it is not half of the stuff they want to cut. It is the sacred cows that are the main problem. While I agree that cuts need to be made, they need to be made across the board, Sacrad Cows as well. They need to make small cuts to Every program. Sacred Cows and all. If cuts need to be made to salaries they need to be made to everyone in the federal Governemnt from the President on down. Every salary, every program, everything needs to receive a fair cut. Not just a snip here and there. Do not Demonize any program or salary. Just be fair across the board.

  17. Redonley2004 says:


  18. Rick says:

    The problems of a few hundred thousand federal employees doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
    Signed, Congress

  19. huh? says:

    So the vacation I have paid $1,500.00 for (including airline tickets of $790.00) will have to be cancelled if my annual leave is cancelled? And on top of it all I may very well be considered essential.

    • Duch says:

      There were many people on leave in the last shutdown in the mid 1990’s and all of them were allowed to be on vacation. In fact those that were on leave actually got their leave restored so they didn’t even have to use any annual leave.

  20. Jgsnms says:

    I need a few days off. Bring on the shutdown!

  21. Gemcourtjd says:

    OUr VAMC Director said that the VA is funded through a 2 year appropriation and therefore will not be impacted by a shut down. Is this true??? I have not been able to verify this.

  22. Daniel Brautigam says:

    The government shut-down is clearly the republicans way of again forcing their agenda on the American people, just as they did in the most recent lame duck session. It really shows the level of maturity as well as the emotional intelligence of all involved.

    • Mustangdollbaby9 says:

      Daniel, you are so wrong. The Republicans are only doing what the will of the people are asking for! To get our butts out of debt! Have you checked the debt calendar lately? All this spending has got to stop. Where have you been lately? With your head in the sand? There are more people for budget cuts than not. We just keep going down this same slippery slope. The Democrats want you to believe that it’s the Republican’s fault, specifically, the Tea Party. That’s just not the case. The Democrats don’t want to work things out. They’re not willing to give up anything because it’s close to an election year, and they’re betting that the more they trash the Republicans, the better off they’ll be in 2012. So, let them trash them! That just goes to show you who has the level of maturity!

      • FAA says:

        Mustang, I do believe that the vast majority of the american citizens want to cut down our debt and get a balanced budget. The problem with your argument is that the republicans are pulling out their usual “playbook” and only addressing entitlements(medicare, medicaid,social security), but refuse to look at 2 unfunded wars, nation building in Iraq, huge contracts to government contractors and raising some taxes on the wealthy. Remember who went into Iraq and spent a trillion dollars and got nothing except 5000 dead americans and countless injured. That charge was lead by the republicans so maybe you need to take your head out and look at the mess we are in objectively and not via your ideological slant. I am not defending the dems I am just putting all the cards out there, we are in this mess because of dem and repubs not one OR the other

      • DoD Division Chief says:

        Way to tell ’em, Mustang… .

      • Fedup says:

        You guys and your bully pullpit “….the will of the people”. The real will of the people is fickle and blows like the breeze. The will of the People in 2008 (remember that swing ?) was CHANGE from the eight years of Bush and republican tactics. During the first two years of the present administration I didn’t hear the republicans screaming about “the will of the people”, but now after 2010 suddenly the masses have spoken. ?? No matter what this administration does it will be wrong to you. It will only be right for republicans when you get YOUR way because they are always so right on every issue. Agree or get thee gone. Now that’s compromise.

      • Jpak4 says:

        Republican strategists care little to nothing about debt. For the past 30 years of Republican governance = Corporate governance. The only love government when it can be ‘milked’ for corporate profits. Their move to downsize government is directly related to maximizing corporate profits, and they in general don’t give a damm about government debt!

    • Basil says:

      Blaming either party is just foolish partisanship. This is a failure of the entire Congress and the President; party is irrelevant.

    • Justicegirl says:

      It shows the LACK of maturity and emotional intelligence of not ALL involved, but of the republicans involved.

    • Cybelle says:

      The House Republican leadership has repeatedly introduced budgets which have been rejected by the Democrats.

      The FY11 budget was due last October 1st, when both Houses of Congress were under a Democratic majority. The Dem. leadership had the responsibility of submitting the FY11 budget; they chose NOT to do their duty.

      If a shutdown occurs you can lay the responsibility squarely on the Democratic Leaders of the 111th Congress, along with those in the 112th Senate who are both rejecting the House proposals & NOT submitting proposals of their own.

      The Republicans, including those who espouse the T.E.A. Party are living their campaign platform – budget cuts & smaller government. It’s probably the shock of having elected officials follow through on their promises that has you confused.

    • Seabee1978 says:

      Then tell me why the Dems did not lead the way and pass a budget while they controlled all THREE part of the Government? The republicans are leading and have put fourth a plan what did Obama or his Administration do … NOTHING.

      • Tawakoni says:

        This is th bottom line. The Democrats had the power in 09/2010, to pass the budget they are Constitutionally required to for FY 2011, which started 10/2010. They intentionally FAILED to pass it, fearing they’d lose votes in the 11/2010, elections.

        This is typical behavior with the Dems, they refuse to do the will of the American majority, and then attempt to shift blame when hey themselves bear the burden with this fiasco.

      • Myrna says:

        If the democrats had done their job a year ago, twe wouldn’t be facing a shutdown today!! That is a fact! This shutdown has been in the owrks since last year and the democrats have been putting a bandade on the problem creating the monstrous deficit today! Republicans just came into office and it was obvious that the public sent a clear massage to congress when they voted for Republicans to come and fix the desaster the democrats have been building since last year when doemocrats had both control of sdenate and house. let’s not be blind with fanatism!

  23. Nellie says:

    I have posted some information (waiting on the sites approval) I hope it helps.
    I think this is just outrageous. You have a group of people playing cat and mouse with peoples lives and they are okay with that. Are those people who are for the shut down willing to pay our bills? To hold us over until someone wakes up and says ok we are being unrealistic? What about the Veterans? Are you really going to cut them off? For some, what they have coming in is all they have. Most people live pay check to pay check these days and can’t afford one day. I say for all those that are for it tak away their checks and benefits and see how much we save then. Most of those people in question make more money than the President so they shouldn’t miss it.

    • Bob the Slob says:

      It is about time they shut this government down, they actually should have shut it down from 2000 – 2008, then we would not be in the mess we are in. I say shut it down, release all the prisoners from the prison and bus them to the Koch Bros front lawn. Shut it down, I don’t care. Until the American people gets their heads out of their $%%^ and started blaming the corporations and the Christian crazy fools.. WHO ARE to BLAME.

  24. Wvawmn3235 says:

    No one in Congress should be paid. All members of Congress should receive a fine for every day the the budget is not passed. The fine should equal the highest salary paid to a Federal employee. There is no excuse for a shut of the government. NO EXCUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  25. Victoria Stone says:

    What if you work for the Department of Health and Human Services? Can we expect a government shutdown?

  26. Lucilas says:

    Do military personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan qualify as Excepted employees of the Federal Government?
    If so, will their families receive their pay?