After the Shutdown: Will Federal Employees Get Paid?

By on April 6, 2011 in News

Many readers will remember the government shutdown from 1995 during the Clinton administration. Some contractors did not get paid but federal employees did get paid–even those who were considered “nonessential” and told to go home (or to the shopping center, play golf, etc.).

And, based on a recent poll of our readers, 45% about those responded said that if there is a shutdown, that will happen again. Another 38% thought that if there was a government shutdown, they would not get paid. The rest said they were “not sure.”

And, of course, it might happen that a shutdown occurs and federal employees do get paid after the fact.

But getting paid after the fact isn’t a sure thing.

Pay After a Shutdown is Unlikely Says Congressman

According to Virginia Congressman Jim Moran, federal employees are unlikely to get paid this time around.

“There will be no reimbursement,” he said on a conference call with reporters this week. He also stated that “There is little likelihood that there would be reimbursement of employees, at least those who were not considered ‘essential’ and not on the job.”

Back pay in this event is not automatic. Congress will have to pass a bill to reimburse federal employees who worked during the shutdown and those who were sent home.

But don’t get too discouraged yet. Moran is a Democrat and, not surprisingly, is quick to blame Republicans for this state of affairs, especially since he has a large number of federal employees who vote in his district. He says that the House Republicans “are far more anti-government in terms of their mindset than even they were in … what was called the Gingrich Revolution in ’95 that shut down the government.”

That may be true. It may also be that he is seeking to score political points against the opposition and to get constituents whipped into a frenzied state against those who are seeking to cut the federal budget and reduce the federal deficit and, by the way, be sure to vote for Congressman Moran in the next election who stood up for your pay and benefits against the evildoer who may be running against him.

Of course, we don’t know that a shutdown will occur. It is likely that a last minute compromise will occur and it will be avoided–in large part because it is unclear who will emerge as likely winners and losers if such an event occurs. We also do not know if federal workers will get paid if there is a shutdown. There is little doubt that politicians work to put their public relations staffs into panic mode to try to pin the blame on others, especially the opposing party.

The Perfect Storm

As we have noted before, federal employees and their pay and benefits are in the midst of a perfect storm.

Add into the mix that federal employee unions have vocally supported Democrats in national elections and there is an even bigger political motive for both parties: one that wants to keep the union support and their money flowing in and another party that would like to suppress a political opponent that represents most of the political workforce.

So, in many ways, the current debate is not unexpected. In fact, this is just the opening round. Negotiations on the debt ceiling are coming up quickly and the debate on the 2012 fiscal year budget isn’t rolling yet.

You are likely to read many more proposals over the next few months that threaten to have a negative impact on your pay and benefits. Most will not ever pass. Some changes may become law and Americans ask their representatives to deal with the crushing debt that will probably not be repaid in the lifetime of many who are alive today.

We will keep our readers informed of proposals that are going through the political process.

© 2016 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources.

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  1. Cecilia Merritt says:

    The fastest way to solve the debate between the donkey and the elephant is have the president suspend their pay if the Federal government is shut down as well.

  2. Manage This! says:

    MY GOD!!! How stupid are you people? You sit and whine about the president, congress, the country and all the things that “Only in America” can this happen. From your remarks, not a single one of you is world aware. The economy here is not any different than in any other country. You don’t have a guaranteed job anywhere right now – especially as a government employee. As for freedoms, most of you are fully aware of our constitution but it is obvious that none of you ever really exercise the right and responsibility aspects of it.
    First and foremost, if you want something done, you should know enough about it to really be able to offer a suggestion that isn’t going to destroy some other aspect of our lives.
    Bring the troops home to guard our borders – NOT THEIR MISSION and NOT ALLOWED BY LAW.
    Stop rebuilding the big bad foreign country – NOT THEIR PEOPLES FAULT we destroyed what little there was left of their infrastructure – and the only bad guys here are al Qaeda – the rest are not really much different in their lives than you or I. They live to feed their family and they work to try and improve their lives.
    The illegals in our country are draining our resources, yea, some of that may be true – so get a summer job working as a fruit or vegetable harvester, earn that minimum wage – or less for a nine hour day working in blistering heat. DO YOUR PART AMERICAN, and then, maybe just maybe, they won’t find a job waiting for them here that none of the Americans would want to work for the trivial pay that they earn.
    The stupidity of blaming all our woes on someone else – give me a break – the real problem isn’t that we don’t have the money for these things, its that the few at the top who wish it – have confused and abused the American people to such a degree that they enjoy entirely free lives. Free from taxes, free from prosecution, free from strife, free from invasion, and worst of all, free from any oversight that might expose their profits from the labor of others. These can be as much as 1000% and in some cases much more. These profits come directly from the common hard working citizen of this fine country and yet for many of these obsessively wealthy, they could care less what happens to the “common folk”.
    Its these same people that Obama wants to reign in with taxation that is fair – not burdensome as it would be to most working class.
    These very same people cry fowl – what would be their incentive to create if they could not have limitless profits without the burden of taxation. These very same people threaten to take their wealth to other countries and put their labor forces to work making still more wealth.
    MY OPINION – GOOD RIDDANCE TO THESE WORTHLESS LEACHES. Get the hell out of my country.
    They have no compunction against indirect slavery, taking toll in their massive profits. Go live somewhere else and tell me then that you think you can have the great life – unchained and unrestricted by foreign governments or the people who – in their poverty may find you to be enough of a target to eliminate from the Human Gene pool. Let the Darwin Awards roll.
    As for accusing the Middle East people as a whole – call the Qur’an a bible of hate and instruction on the elimination of the unclean foreigners, the west, the unbelievers. You should really read the complete history of Christianity, or of the Spanish Inquisition, or the Crusades.
    YES, Whine all you want – but do me a favor, get of your fat lazy asses and get involved in government, write your congress man/woman. Take an active part in the politics of your city, county, state, nation and more than that….When you see the other guy on the road, doing something you think is wrong, stop pointing your finger (figuratively or for real), take a moment of reflection and ask yourself – who the hell gave you the right to judge anyone else on this planet. Clean up your own act first – then maybe you can contribute to the acts of others and help them improve was well.
    Yea, that last part relates, consider all these statements and the many others that will follow – if you don’t know your facts, you don’t know what you are talking about and you really are – not contributing to the solution, which means, YOU TOO – ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM

  3. TiredofItAll says:

    Cut the Congress representation in half, including the Senate. Do more with less like the rest of us. Save on their salaries, healthcare, pensions and perks. A government shut down with lay-offs while these representatives are still getting paid? American taxpayers getting hosed again!

  4. CHUCK91095 says:

    federal employees that work for the va hospitle schould get paid at all coast.

  5. Acountant88 says:

    Ralph, you are forgetting the fact that if federal employees are not paid we will be entitled to unemployment in many states. In states facing large budget issues this will be a big problem. So really it will be helping out the states because many employees will be paid by either entity.

  6. Soccer1133 says:

    There is a basic speaking from both sides of the mouth conundrum going on! Unions support Democrats and Business supports Republicans. Republicans want to remove the money and support Democrats receive from Unions. Does anyone want to remove the money and support that Republicans receive from business?
    I say, establish and elections fund that is to be used by qualified candidates to run for office. Each qualified candidate receives funds from the national fund and cannot receive any other funds to run their election campaigns. Limit the time for electioneering and possibly remove political party affiliation- non-partisan national elections.
    We the people need to elect persons that we feel are the best to represent us and our interests. Party affiliation denigrates our ability to think and reason and intrinsically behooves the candidate to the party and/or donors and not the Nations.

  7. dc says:

    Blah, blah, blah…. Let’s show them. When it is time for re-electing the “The Distinguished Gentleman – 1992, from your state”, vote for the person who has never held a public office, not affiliated with big business, or any lobbyist. These people do not care about anyone but themselves. They kiss the babies, hug our grandmothers and take our tax dollars and build bridges to nowhere, doll house museums, and more prisons. This is partially our fault; we voted these people into office. Let’s step up and find viable candidates who can work together to resolve this countries real problem: education, infrastructure, banking thievery. As a federal employee, it amazes me how we are just like sheep. Everything Congress comes up with has an arterial motive; profit for someone that they are affiliated with. Petroleum companies, automakers, pharmaceutical, banking, homebuilders, where do you find something at a reasonable price in this day and age. At the dollar store or the flea market. These companies are subsidized by our tax dollars. Here is my recommendation———Limit their terms, max 4 years. Get in, do your part in support of the nation and get out. You can run for re-election, and oh, no retirement system for you. Put your monies in a 401k at one of the banking institutions like your constituents. Have them subscribe to the same health insurance plans that we are offered. Stop their check during this period; they are our so-called leaders, Lead by example. Watching and listening to their rhetoric is appalling. I feel for our men and women at arms, our lowest paid federal employees and contractors.

    • FAA Engineer says:

      easier said than done. I’ll bet 90%+ of the readers here are dissatisfied with con gress, yet they will vote for the incumbent if they belong to the correct political party.


      If they are the new guy (gal), vote for them. Vote against all incumbents. Forget party affiliations, and hold your noses and vote against the incumbent.

      Otherwise, don’t sit and complain about what you get.

  8. guest says:

    I am a Veteran and a federal worker, which I take great pride in. I am a single parent that lives literally paycheck to paycheck. I can not even fathom the thought of missing a pay period. As being a federal worker we support our government, our soldiers. Tomorrow I guess I will walk into work to find out if they think I am an essential or non essential employee. My child’s father is a soldier, and when he doesn’t get paid, I get no child support. Who is going to be taking care of my family or the other family’s that this is effecting?

  9. Guest says:

    SHAME ON THEM!! Our soldiers may not get paid but Congress will???!!! Our Federal Employees who will be furloughed are most likely at a lower grade and can’t afford the loss of salary. The “essential” people will report to work and most likely will get some benefit for it. We are sending money overseas, not collecting taxes from the wealthiest . . . When all is said and done this will cost the people of the United States more than these yahoos are all saying they will save. Wait till the lawsuits start coming in . . . we probably won’t hear about the settlements that will be paid out. I am thoroughly disgusted by the Democrats and Republicans alike.

  10. DanL says:

    Well, the clown-in-chief is determined to screw the Federal employees because he is convinved they are too stupid or too loyal to the party to see what is happpening. Of course, the union “leaders” that get paid for not working will whip up a furor to help the massa keep the Feds on the plantation.

  11. Fed_Manager_in_DC says:

    Here’s a novel idea….Congress shouldn’t be paid UNTIL THEY PASS THE BUDGET!!!

  12. Vdm49 says:

    Furloughs in most federal agencies requires formal notification of employees 30 days prior to a furlough. This has probably not occurred in many agencies.

  13. John says:

    This is nothing short of disgusting that our elected officials should allow this to happen. I am quite certain that THEY will be compensated for their time!

  14. Tim says:

    All federal employees got paid after the fact in 1995 with Clinton’s game. I was a supervisor who had to live through all the disruption of the shutdown. So to your congressmanfrom VA who says they probably will not get paid, look at history.

  15. Guest says:

    I don’t think it is totally about budget reductions. I think it is another mechanism to achieve the Republican agenda. Cut NPR, Planned Parenthood, EPA, etc. Come on! NPR and Planned Parenthood are not a budget buster. Let’s look at real differences that also happen to be Republican favorites. Start with addressing our lousy tax code and make everyone pay their fair share.

  16. Veejur says:

    Since a recent theme from the “New Republicans” was that they are willing to cut the budget “two weeks at a time, if necessary,” and this came shortly after the clamor that Feds wages are too high, and their benefits “too generous,” it has to be clear that they would oppose any bill that would introduced to pay the back-wages of furloughed Feds. They would probably might cave on paying those who actually did work, but they wouldn’t make it easy.

  17. Guest says:

    I would agree to a 10% cut in pay to help our country out of this mess, if everyone (Senate, Congress, DOD, etc.) were included, and included a 10% cut in the amount of food stamps and welfare payments. We are all in this together!

  18. Guest says:

    The president is our president whether or not you voted for him.

    • HRGuy71 says:

      Unfortunately, a true statement. The 2012 elections cannot get here fast enough.

    • Kochman says:

      So you feel we need to support his decisions even though it will spell the destruction of our contry, just because he is our president. Man, I bet Jimmy Carter loves Obama because now Carter won’t be known as the worst president ever.

  19. Govt worker says:

    Obama agreed with the GOP’s first proposal of $31 billion and then gave them 2 more billion. Then the GOP moved the goal post to $66 billion. There is plenty of video tape showing the Tea Party faction of the GOP saying “Shut ‘er Down.” I know what side should be blamed for the shutdown, should it occur.

  20. HRGuru says:

    File for unemployment insurance with your state.