Government Shutdown: Resources
Government Shutdown Resources and Frequently Asked Questions
As many of you know, funding for many federal government programs ran out at midnight on December 21, requiring various federal agencies to provide only essential services until funding is restored. Both the House and the Senate are working to move towards a solution.
Congress previously passed, and President Trump signed into law, five of its twelve funding bills for the 2019 fiscal year, which began on October 1. The government shutdown involves funding for the seven FY2019 appropriations bills not yet enacted: the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies; Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies; Financial Services and General Government; Homeland Security; Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies; State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies.
Below are resources and answers to frequently asked questions to help address uncertainty surrounding the partial shutdown:
- The Office of Management and Budget compiled a list of contingency plans across the Federal Government for possible lapse in appropriations.
- The Congressional Research Services (CRS) has an in-depth report which summarizes the “where to look for” info on shutdowns.
- CRS 2018 Report on Causes, Process, and Effects of shutdown of the Federal Government
- The American Foreign Service Agency has a page with links to various resources including Guidance for Shutdown Furloughs and Furlough Guidance, Guidance from the Foreign Affairs Agencies, Guidance on Determining Who Works During a Shutdown, What Federal Employees Need to Know About Their Pay and Benefits, Who Gets Sent Home If the Government Shuts Down, A Primer on Pay and Benefits, and What a Shutdown Means for Federal Retirement Benefits.
- Office of Professional Management Furlough Guidance
- Department of Interior
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Department of Employment Services
- Department of Transportation
- Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Q: What is a partial government shutdown? Why is it happening?
A: Most agencies of the federal government are funded from annual appropriations bills passed by Congress or Continuing Resolutions (CR) that fund government agencies while appropriations are still under negotiation. The last Continuing Resolution that continued federal funding expired at midnight on Friday December 21. If Congress and the administration can’t reach a consensus on a new Continuing Resolution, federal agencies may not spend money they don’t have.
Q: How long will the shutdown last?
A: Historically, the longest shutdown on record is 21 days. Although we do not know for certain, we will be working tirelessly to find a solution to this matter. My offices are open for those seeking help or answers.
Q: Which federal employees keep working during a government shutdown?
A: This answer comes in three parts:
- Federal employees who work for agencies or work on programs that are not funded by the annual appropriations process are exempt from a shutdown. These include agencies like the U.S Postal service and programs like social security and Medicare.
- Federal employees whose agency or programs are funded by annual appropriations that have not been provided for Fiscal Year 2019 will be designated by their agency as “essential” or “non-essential.” Only essential employees—generally those who do work related to life safety, property protection, health, emergency response, and other work as determined by their agencies—will be allowed to report for work once available funding has been exhausted.
- Those deemed non-essential when agency funding has been exhausted are legally required to stay home and are put on unpaid furlough.
- Note: Impacted agencies will vary and all federal employees should contact their (supervisor/employing agency) for specific shutdown instructions.
Q: Will employees receive a paycheck for hours worked prior to a lapse in appropriations?
Under Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance issued in 1980 (below), employees will receive this paycheck. Although the payroll for the last pay period before the lapse will be processed potentially during a period of furlough, the minimum number of payroll staff necessary for this process will be excepted from furlough for the minimum time required to issue the checks, including checks for the last pay period before the lapse. This guidance can be found in OMB’s August 28, 1980, Bulletin No. 80-14, Shutdown of Agency Operations Upon Failure by the Congress to Enact Appropriations, paragraph 3.b.(1) (Appropriations and funds). OMB has reviewed and concurs in this answer.
- Saturday, December 22, is the last day of the December 9-22 biweekly pay period. Timekeeping for that period would normally be finalized no later than December 24-26. Paychecks for that pay period should be issued at the normal time (generally, in the December 28 to January 3 time range).
- As necessary, agencies and payroll providers may finalize the processing of paychecks for the December 9-22 biweekly pay period as an orderly shutdown activity. Assuming the lapse is in effect during the time that timekeeping is being finalized, the paychecks may not include pay for any work performed on Saturday, December 22. Agencies should document that work as well as any other later work performed during the lapse.
- Lapse-affected employees may not receive any pay for work (i.e., orderly shutdown activities or other excepted work) performed during the lapse until after the lapse has ended.
- If the lapse in appropriations continues during the December 23-January 5 biweekly pay period, any excepted work performed during the lapse should be documented. No pay may be provided for excepted work during the December 23-January 5 pay period until the lapse in appropriations has ended. The treatment of the pay of employees during furlough periods will be determined by Congress in legislation enacted in connection with the restoration of appropriations.
Q: I am a federal employee. Will I get paid during a shutdown?
A: All federal employees should contact their supervisor/employing agency.
Q: What about contractor employees?
A: Contact your employer for further information.
Q: Will I receive my Social Security check during the shutdown?
A: Yes. Social Security checks are paid from a trust fund and are not dependent on appropriations bills. That includes Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Q: Are employees entitled to unemployment compensation while on furlough?
A: 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. 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” Agencies or employees should submit questions to the appropriate State (or District of Columbia) office. The Department of Labor’s website provides links to individual State offices at. Click here for a list of Federal Identification Codes (FIC) needed for unemployment compensation applications can be found here.
Q: I’m a Federal retiree. Will I still receive my monthly annuity payment during a government shutdown?
A: Yes. Federal retirees under the CSRS and FERS retirement systems will still receive their scheduled annuity payments on the first business day of the month.
Q: I recently retired from Federal service. Will my retirement application be delayed by a government shutdown?
A: If your agency or payroll center submitted your retirement application to OPM, you will begin receiving interim annuity payments while OPM Retirement Specialists process your application. Because OPM Retirement Services is funded by the trust fund it manages, OPM Retirement Services employees will still be working normal operating hours during a government furlough. If your agency or payroll center has not yet submitted your retirement application or the application is incomplete, you will likely experience some delay as OPM must wait on other agencies to submit all of the information needed to process your retirement. Some of these agencies may not be operating during a government furlough.
Q: Will an employee continue to be covered under the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program during a shutdown furlough if the agency is unable to make its premium payments on time?
A: Yes. The employee’s FEHB coverage will continue even if an agency does not make the premium payments on time. Since the employee will be in a non-pay status, the enrollee share of the FEHB premium will accumulate and be withheld from pay upon return to pay status.
Q: Would a lapse in appropriations alter the effective date of an FEHB Open Season enrollment if an enrollment request was fully processed by an agency and submitted to the health plan prior to the lapse?
A: No. The effective date would still be the first day of the first full pay period in January.
Q: Who are “excepted” employees?
A: In the context of shutdown furloughs, the term “excepted” 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 performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property or performing certain other types of excepted work. Agency legal counsels, working with senior agency managers, determine which employees are designated to be handling “excepted” and “non-excepted” functions. Click here for copies of OMB and DOJ issuances, which provide guidance on the application of these criteria.
Q: Who are “exempt” employees?
A: Employees are “exempt” from furlough if they are not affected by a lapse in appropriations. This includes employees who are not funded by annually appropriated funds. Employees performing those functions will generally continue to be governed by the normal pay, leave, and other civil service rules.
Q: What about employees who are neither “excepted” nor “exempt”?
A: Employees who are funded through annual appropriations but are not designated as excepted are barred from working during a shutdown, except to perform minimal activities as necessary to execute an orderly suspension of agency operations related to non-excepted activities. These employees will be furloughed.
Q: Will an employee “exempt” from furlough be paid for a holiday that occurs during a shutdown?
A: Employees are “exempt” from furlough if they are not affected by a lapse in appropriations. As such, an “exempt” employee will be paid for a holiday according to the normal rules governing holidays.
Q: Will furloughed employees be paid for a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough?
A: Furloughed employees will not receive pay for a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough unless authorized by subsequent legislation.
Q: What is the status of an “excepted” employee who does not perform work on a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough?
A: An “excepted” employee who does not perform work on a holiday must be placed in a furlough status for the holiday and must be provided written notice of the agency’s decision to furlough in accordance with the guidance in section P. Procedures. This is because during a lapse of appropriations all affected employees must be (1) at work performing excepted activities or (2) furloughed. This applies with respect to any period of time that is part of an affected employee’s regularly scheduled administrative workweek, including a holiday. (See Sample Notice of Furlough During Holiday to Excepted Employee Due to a Lapse of Appropriations.)
Q: Will an “excepted” employee who does not work on a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough be paid for the holiday?
A: No. An “excepted” employee who does not work on a holiday will be placed in a furlough status for the holiday and will not receive pay for a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough unless authorized by subsequent legislation. (See Sample Notice of Furlough During Holiday to Excepted Employee Due to a Lapse of Appropriations.)
Q: Can an “excepted” employee voluntarily report to work on the holiday?
A: No. Each agency must determine which excepted activities must be performed on a holiday, and which employees are needed to perform those functions. Employees who are not otherwise needed to perform excepted functions on the holiday must be placed in furlough status for that day.
Q: Can “excepted” employees be required to perform work on a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough?
A: Yes. Each agency is responsible for determining which excepted activities must be performed on a holiday in order to carry out functions related to such excepted activities. Failure to report to duty on a holiday is no different than failure to report to work on any other day.
Military and Veterans
Q: What happens with military personnel?
A: All military personnel performing active duty will continue on a normal duty status. Civilian personnel who are necessary to carry out or support excepted activities will also continue in normal duty status. Military exchanges will remain open while stateside commissaries would likely close.
Q: I am a veteran, will I still be able to receive healthcare?
A: Veterans will still be able to receive their health benefits. The VBA will continue processing those claims that are in the current queue, but will not accept new claims during the shutdown. In 2013, Veteran Service Officers (like the VFW, DAV and American Legion) moved over to the health side of the AK VA clinic to meet with veterans wishing to submit new claims. The VBA would not process those new claims until the shutdown ended.
Q: How would a government shutdown impact Coast Guard operations, personnel, and acquisitions?
- Operations: Coast Guard operations that ensure National Security and protection of life and property will continue unabated during a Government shutdown. The Coast Guard would cease or curtail certain mission activities, including inspections on new commercial vessel construction, Merchant Mariner documentation and licensing, Vessel documentation, Aids to navigation preventive maintenance, Bridge administration activity, and Recreational boating safety activities except defect notifications.
- Military: All uniformed, active duty Coast Guard military personnel would report for duty as usual, but would not be paid until a resolution is reached on funding.
Civilian: Based on past lapse planning efforts, we would expect ~ 6000 Coast Guard civilian personnel to be placed on furlough without pay for the duration of the shutdown.
Acquisitions: Because a large portion of the acquisitions workforce will be furloughed, acquisition work will be delayed.
Q: I am a federal employee who is not exempt or essential. What about my health insurance?
A: Health insurance coverage will continue during any unpaid time. Employees’ premiums that accrue during a shutdown will be deducted from the next paycheck.
Q: Will I still be able to access federal land, such as national parks and monuments?
A: The anticipated plan is to keep many parks open for outdoor activities. Open-air parks and monuments in Washington will be open. Other services that require staff, including campgrounds and concessions, will be closed.
Q: What about my student loans? Will I be able to receive and make payments?
A: Yes. The U.S. Department of Education has determined that federal student aid processing is an essential function of government.
Q: Will my garbage get picked up?
A: Garbage pickup is a local government function.
Q: Will my mail still be delivered?
A: Yes. The U.S. Postal Service’s operations are funded from their own revenue, not Congressional appropriations.
Q: Will travel be affected?
A: Probably not. Airports would remain open and air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration officials would remain on the job. However, there could be some delays as "non-essential" employees are furloughed. You should also still be able to travel by train. Even though Amtrak depends on federal subsidies, it also gets revenue from ticket sales and has managed to stay open during past shutdowns.