Government Shutdown Begins

The federal government has officially shut down after a budget stalemate in Congress. What will this mean for the federal workforce?

A Monday night ping pong match in which the House and Senate bounced continuing resolutions back and forth to each other ultimately ended in a stalemate with no agreement and both parties blaming each other for the situation. With a lack of a continuing resolution to fund the government, a shutdown has officially ensued.

The hang up has largely been over Obamacare with Republicans wanting to defund or delay portions of the law. The Senate is opposed to doing this, hence the stalemate.

The government will remain shutdown until Congress passes a bill to fund the government and the president signs it into law. When this could happen is unknown at this point.

Federal employees are undoubtedly wondering, “What does this mean for me?” Here are some of the facts as to how a shutdown relates to the federal workforce:

  • OMB director Sylvia Burwell has sent a memo directing agencies to begin shutdown operations.
  • Members of the military will get paid thanks to legislation passed by Congress that the president has signed into law.
  • Civilian federal workers who are considered “essential” will continue to work as usual, but without pay. Once funding for the government is restored, they will get retroactive pay.
  • “Non-essential” federal workers will be furloughed without pay. Federal employee unions have said they will fight to get back pay for these federal workers, but there is a strong sentiment that federal workers who are considered to be “non-essential” will not get paid retroactively during this shutdown even though they did in the 1996 shutdown.
  • Most furloughed federal workers are supposed to be out of their offices within four hours of the start of business Tuesday. Workers on furlough will be barred from accessing their work e-mail accounts, according to the Office of Personnel Management. Employees are also under strict orders to not work once they get home, meaning no checking email, using cell phones, or laptop computers. Managers are encouraging employees to leave government issued phones and laptops at a secure place in the office for this reason.
  • Employees will receive an official email Tuesday explaining whether or not they are considered “essential” or will furloughed. It will include appeal rights and a form to use for seeking unemployment insurance. Depending on where they live, some employees may be eligible for unemployment. Some states require a one-week waiting period before applying, while others allow immediately applying.
  • If the shutdown continues, all employees can expect to be paid on schedule on Oct. 15, 2013, for hours worked from Sept. 22 through Sept. 30.
  • What government services are considered essential? Federal courts, passports, unemployment checks, Social Security, Medicare, air travel, food stamps, mail delivery, US embassies, the military, and annuity payments for federal retirees are some services that won’t be going away. The Washington Post has a detailed list of the impacts a shutdown will have on various federal agencies and services.
  • Estimates are that approximately 800,000 federal employees will be furloughed by the shutdown. About 1.4 million active-duty military personnel, some reservists and about 1.3 million civilian federal employees will continue to report to work. The majority of users said in a recent survey that they would be furloughed.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.