After the Shutdown: Will Federal Employees Get Paid?

The threat of a shutdown is looming as many readers know. According to Jim Moran (D-VA), federal employees are unlikely to get paid after the shutdown is over.

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.

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. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47