handling the government shutdown: an open thread for federal employees and contractors

A reader writes:

I’m a longtime lurker. I’m hoping you would be willing to host an open thread for federal employees and federal contractors on handling the government shutdown. No politics allowed of course. Mostly a place to share information and lessons learned from 2013 and instructions for this one. I’ve been told that I’ll go the office for 3-4 hours Monday to shut everything (lights, computers, equipment) down. Then will turn off my gov phone and wait to hear on my personal phone. One of the things I’ll be doing on Monday is making sure I have my most updated copy of my staff’s personal contact info to take home with me.

Consider it done. People impacted by the last shutdown, what advice do you have for people affected by this one? And people affected by this one, ask and share away.

And here’s a piece from 2013 by a regular commenter (thank you, Katie the Fed!) about what not to say to friends who have been furloughed by the government shut-down.

{ 372 comments… read them below }

  1. Porygon-Z*

    Hey all, I hope the shutdown’s treating you as well as possible. I’m getting nervous about whether or not there’ll be back pay, but I guess there’s nothing to do but wait.

    I had a question that’s kind of specific but I was hoping that someone here had experience with it in some way. I’m due for a raise effective today, and I did the legwork a little more than a month ago so all of the process should be done by now. Assuming we get back pay, do you think the raise would be reflected in there?

    1. Pickles*

      Depends on if the process is actually done and if the paperwork really processed in time. If it did, then it should.

      1. Porygon-Z*

        That’s good to hear, thank you! I’ve been through a similar raise process (but without the shutdown) a couple other times in the past couple years and it always kicked in when expected, so fingers crossed.

        1. Interested Bystander*

          Completely unrelated to the post, but I love your name. Always wonderful to see a fellow nerd.

      2. LBG*

        If your SF50 with the updated pay information has posted, then I would assume it has gone through. We use MyBiz to access the 50s (DoD). Your agency may use a different system.

    2. Anonfortoday*

      We have new hires coming in today (we called each one personally). Thank goodness we got permission to stay home. If we hadn’t the whole training schedule would have gone out the window.

    3. Longtime Listener, First time Caller*

      Also, if you are a fed contractor, I believe the back pay issue depends on the type of M&O contract you are on. For example at my fed contractor job, we don’t get back pay.

      1. Porygon-Z*

        I’m a civilian employee, so fortunately that’s more likely to end up in my favor. At my agency the contractors are working for now, although I doubt they’re getting much done since they’re not allowed to start up new projects until we’re back open.

    4. Lujessmin*

      My sister works for TSA as a payroll admin, so she’s considered essential. She was willing to work overtime this weekend to get as many people in the payroll system to be paid this week (normally they have until Wednesday in a payroll week, this week it’s Monday). I know she’s terribly stressed out.

    5. not in HR anon*

      do you know if the sf-50 was processed? Even if not, it can still be processed an back-dated, in which case (if you do get paid), you should get the amount in a future paycheck. I had a promotion through a lot of HR shenanigans and then I got a lump sum later of what I should have been getting in previous pay checks, once it was finally straightened out and I got the final-final-final sf-50.

      Also, I think you’ll get back pay. I’m not furloughed now and I wasn’t furloughed in 2013, but I think the ones who were furloughed ended up getting back pay.

      1. Porygon-Z*

        I’m not sure. I wish they were more transparent with the process, but I at least know that my boss informed the intern program (this is my final promotion as a Pathways Intern) that I was due for a promotion and they acknowledged it. I haven’t seen any documents go into EOPF yet, but my past few raises I saw those happen after I officially had the raise. They’re definitely aware of my eligibility date, so hopefully they put that as the effective date.

        1. not in HR anon*

          re: transparency. The sad part is, we got absolutely no info (and sometimes contradictory info) in 2013, but I couldn’t blame that all on our director being terrible (although she was), but because it hadn’t happened in forever and so they just didn’t have a plan. I’m at a different location now within the same dept, but with this and the previous (threatened) shutdowns, the plans have been much more clear. Last time, we didn’t know we’d get paid until literally when we got our paychecks.

        2. Cacwgrl*

          I can only speak to this program from my experience as PPM where we have a centralized HR office, but we typically don’t see 50’s post until closer to the end of the pay period in which the action is effective. So even if we submit the action with a certain effective date, the employees don’t see the action right away. Hopefully that’s the case with you!

  2. Cat*

    I don’t work for the federal government, but am an attorney who practices before the federal government so my work is dependent on the government being open. The agency I primarily practice before was basically shut down for six months last year and it was brutal for my firm. (Probably outing what I do from that.) Fortunately, they have carry over funds of some sort so they can stay open until “further notice.” I’m hoping it’ll last for a good bit because I’m in the middle of a hearing people have flown out from California for and it would be am ess to shut the whole thing down.

    1. Lynca*

      That’s good they have carry over. We don’t have any kind of information about how our federal funding will be handled or even when impacts may start.

    2. Minerva McGonagall*

      The federal regulator for my industry was shut down for a long time due to lack of a quorum. I wonder if it’s the same one? Didn’t really impact us, but did impact a lot of our peers whose filings just gathered dust.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      Oh, hi, same boat (though probably not the same agencies. MOST of ours posted this morning on their status, but we had a major run-around because one agency posted NOTHING and still provided access to their filing portal – so no one knew whether to file or to wait, and there was no one answering the phones to provide additional assistance/guidance. They finally noticed the shutdown an hour ago. People aren’t sure whether to be happy that they have an extra day to file or stressed that it’s going to back all the deadlines up and create a bottleneck when filing reopens.

    4. Kris*

      My husband is in the middle of litigating a jury trial in federal district court. The judge told everyone on Friday that the court had enough money to continue operating for a few weeks.

    5. Keri*

      Another attorney in the same boat, though a different federal agency. The one I practice before has funding, and I had hearings as usual today, though ones later in the week have been canceled. not sure if that’s a shutdown issue or regular bureaucratic stuff.

    6. mrs__peel*

      I’m an attorney who participates in hearings with ALJs at a federal agency, and (so far) it seems as though ours are proceeding as scheduled.

      During the last shutdown, many of our hearings got cancelled/rescheduled because so many of the agency staff were sent home. But there’s such a *huge* backlog of cases now (10 years’ worth!), I think they’re doing anything they can to avoid that.

  3. Paige Turner*

    Federal contractor here- metro seemed to be business as usual this morning. General view with contractors seems to be that we can work on our own for a week or two, but any longer than that will have an impact on meeting deadlines and possibly on getting paid :(

    1. Jane Snow*

      I’m in a similar boat. Most of my projects at work are CDC projects, so all of our technical monitors are out of work. We’re required to stay on deadline anyway, so there will be a lot of flying blind in the foreseeable future.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It depends on if your agency collects and keeps filing fees. For example, some of the immigration courts remained open last time because they ran operations using that income. But it can be tricky if the detention centers are semi-shutdown, for example, because the court may be open, but transport often isn’t.

    3. Sal*

      For us it depends on how long our contracts are funded. We have multiple contracts on base, mine thankfully is funded for a while. I can still work, but other contracts that are funded can still be shut down if they requires “supervision” from the gov that they don’t have right now.

      Feds here had to come in for 4 hours today and sign furlough paperwork, so that may be why the metro seemed normal. They are all getting ready to leave.

      Things are slowing down here though. I have missions this and next week and it’s pretty questionable how well they will go.

      1. Delyssia*

        Feds here had to come in for 4 hours today and sign furlough paperwork, so that may be why the metro seemed normal. They are all getting ready to leave.

        That does depend on the agency – and possibly even the department within the agency. Some already went through whatever shutdown preparation was required on Friday, while some had to deal with it today.

    4. Snark*

      It was probably business as usual because a lot of Feds are going into their offices to do paperwork and complete shutdown tasks.

    5. LSP*

      My company has told us to keep working until and if we receive a “stop work order” from the contracts office at the agency we work for. In the past, my company has been able to keep working (on anything that didn’t require client input) during shutdowns. However, my boss thinks the issuing of stop work orders is just as likely as not this time around, and if that’s the case, we may be sent home after a day or two, and we may be asked to use our PTO for that time.

      This is all complicated by the fact that my company was recently bought by a larger firm and all the details about how they might approach something like this are completely unknown to us. The sale hasn’t even been made public yet, so there are layers of stress right now.

      All I know is I don’t want to have to blow through my PTO because of this.

      1. lemonjelly*

        That’s basically the same situation I’m in with my company (complete with buyout by another firm, except we just finished our “official” transition and it did not go well). An added fun bonus is that I need my PTO for maternity leave in May/June (because designated maternity leave is for chumps). Ugh.

      2. Anna*

        I’m with a contractor and we’re business as usual because of the way we’re funded. However, the regional federal office that we have to go to for anything out of the norm (and the program I work for there is always something out of the norm) is shut down. I jokingly asked if that means we can do whatever we want and ask forgiveness. :) Basically, though, I work for a private company that received their funding already, so we keep on.

        The funny thing is that I have one student who is working an internship at a senator’s district office and I legitimately don’t know if they’re open and if the students needs to go in.

      3. LSP*

        We just got the stop work order, so I can’t work on anything for my contracts.

        I don’t do a whole lot outside of that work, so, um… yeah. I have no idea what to do with the rest of my day.

  4. Antilles*

    Can I ask a question (possibly dumb!) based on something from Katie’s 2013 post?
    There is precedent for the people who were furloughed to get backpay, as they have received it after previous shutdowns, but it requires a separate authorization from Congress.
    Did this ever happen? Or did it happen for some agencies but not all? Or did it get completely bogged down and is now so far in the past that it’s basically a forgotten issue (albeit not by those who lost money)?

    1. Pickles*

      It happened. It’s kind of a political disaster for it not to happen, I think (trying to avoid politics here; I do mean that for both parties). A few areas were considered necessary enough to bring back early, too. Created some awkwardness in dealing with other people/organizations if they weren’t brought back before the shutdown was officially over. But we lose the best people – those with options – over this kind of thing.

      1. Pickles*

        Ah, didn’t realize not everyone got paid. Better answers below in this thread, clearly. Thanks, all.

    2. fposte*

      I believe people got backpay for the shutdown. However, there were a few other furlough events for some employees in 2013 that weren’t paid.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes—folks who were furloughed didn’t receive pay for the furlough because that was seen as a separate event from the shutdown. (The furloughs we’re tied to other, prior budget cuts, I believe.)

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            That’s my recollection, too! That whole experience (sequester, shutdown, hiring freeze) was such bullshit.

          2. fposte*

            Yeah, when I did a quick check it looked like the sequester furloughs didn’t get paid but the shutdown furloughs did. (We’ve had budget furloughs in our state as well; I figured the sequester furloughs were pretty much the same thing.)

            1. Anna*

              Oh yeah. I remember there being a lot of discussion around whether or not the sequester furloughs would be paid and there were a lot of hard feelings around it not happening.

    3. Turquoisecow*

      I’m pretty sure that when the state of NJ shut down this past summer, back pay was issued afterwards, but I don’t know about federal precedent.

      I’m not a federal worker, but back pay wouldn’t help if someone’s rent was due this week….

        1. not in HR anon*

          Ooh, cool. Last time around (so far not yet this time) we got a ton of e-mails about how to take out TSP loans so we could pay our bills. (loans on our retirement money)

        2. HRH the Emperor Kuzco*

          The biggest piece of advice I give to anybody in the military, or with a federal job, or as a contractor is that being forearmed is necessary in these situations. Banking at places like USAA allows some to at least have that minor piece of mind that things will continue as normal. It’s obviously not going to help *this* time, but based on our government everyone should operate under the assumption it’s going to happen again.

      1. copy run start*

        From what I remember of the 2013 shutdown, federal employees who were furloughed could apply for UI, but there was a possibility they would have to pay it back if they received back pay. I don’t really recall what happened beyond that, but it sounds like some back pay was issued.

        The problem with UI is that you can’t apply until you are out of work (i.e. today) and you have a waiting week (i.e. this week) that you are not eligible for anyway. It sounds like now all is back on for tomorrow, but I think it’s only really worth it if you have no emergency fund and the furloughs look to last longer than a few weeks.

        Hopefully we’re not back in this position in February. I went through 2013 as a state employee and we only stayed open because our division had some state funds to pay us with. I remember it was possible we would close if it had gone on much longer. A couple of my coworkers who were funded solely with federal funds were in the most danger.

    4. CAA*

      Yes, direct Federal employees got paid for the last shutdown.

      Contractors got paid only if they were authorized to work, e.g. my company was allowed to bill for the time we worked on that day prior to receiving the stop work order; and we were authorized to continue providing a certain minimal level of support for the public facing part of the system we maintained. We were not allowed to create anything new or do any research related to that project until the Monday after we received authorization to resume work.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        This. We were hit in the 2013 shutdown, and we did ultimately get back pay. My cousin, who was a contractor, did not and had to either take it out of PTO or take the leave unpaid.

        I don’t trust the knuckleheads in Congress now to back pay the non-military federal employees. It doesn’t fit with their “lazy government employee” narrative. Will be interesting since I think the greatest numbers of federal employees are in Texas, California, Maryland, and Virginia. (And, if you take out military, Virginia’s numbers go down significantly on actual feds.)

        1. Victoria*

          Last time, my military husband received “back pay”, but they also required him to take 16 days of LWOP before the next fiscal year to cover the not-really-back-pay.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It happened, but you never know if it will happen during the shutdown. Shutdowns are much more expensive—even without backpay—than keeping the government open.

        1. Elf*

          Because there are lots of things that need to be done that won’t get done, and it generally costs a lot more to fix things afterwords than it does to maintain them. For example, CDC is down 2/3 of it’s workers. Will they be able to keep up with all currently running experiments, or will some have to be scrapped, wasting the investment? I’m sure others can come up with many more examples.

          1. Another person*

            Yeah NIH labs being shut down is going to cost so much money and time in wasted experiments. Especially if it stays shut down for more than a day or two, people are going to have to completely restart some months-or-longer long experiments.

            1. ramonaflowers89*

              I worked at NIH during the 2013 shutdown and it was a NIGHTMARE shutting down the lab. We started winding down a good two weeks in advance because we had to freeze samples and start getting rid of all infectious and cell material. You really cannot shut down a lab in a day. We couldn’t start any long-term experiments and since we were a vaccine development lab for herpesviruses, basically long term animal experiments are what we do. We had to stop both mouse and monkey experiments. I know we had several cytomegalovirus (CMV) monkey experiments running and CMV takes MONTHS to show up in infected animals – it takes so long to collect data on immune responses – and all that work went up in smoke because we missed time points we needed. NIH had to suspend clinical trials of new drugs and vaccines, so human lives were literally dependent on the government reopening. I was livid thinking of all the time and money wasted.

              1. Non-essential*

                Considering the dubious job titles of people who were declared essential in my agency…how are scientific labs (particularly biological ones and others running time-sensitive experiments) not considered exempt from shutdown?

        2. Natalie*

          There are various actions the agencies have to do to close, which all cost money. They have to make those preparations ahead of time, so sometimes it’s all wasted work. Agencies that collect user fees, like national parks, lose revenue. The people who aren’t paid aren’t turning around and spending that money, which has real economic consequences.

          Once agencies reopen, they have a big backlog to deal with, also costing money. Assuming back pay is authorized for furloughed workers, you’re paying them for not working (ethically the correct choice but economically you’re paying for nothing). Plenty of people that are government contractors won’t get paid, so they take a permanent economic hit.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yes, and there’s also a huge secondary effect from federal employees not spending money or investing their retirement benefits during the shutdown. So it has both direct costs to the government and secondary costs to the national economy.

        3. Anon for this*

          Years ago, my husband did collections for the IRS. Every day he worked, he brought in well more than what he was paid that year. During a budget crisis, he was furloughed a couple days. I couldn’t believe the insanity behind that. Sure, they didn’t have to pay him those days but everyday he does work the gov’t makes more than they paid him. They lost money by furloughing him.

        4. Student*

          For my part of the world – gov contractor who deals in nuclear stuff – most of our nuclear science stuff isn’t considered “essential”. Our radioactive material and expensive, finicky radioactive detection equipment don’t conveniently disappear during shutdowns, though.

          Lots of our radioactive detectors have to continue to function, but the people who maintain them and analyze their data aren’t necessarily considered “essential” – it varies substantially on the most local decision-making authority (who often may not know jack squat about radiation and who also has to prioritize among a bunch of scientists emphatically making their personal case that they are essential).

          So, when a shutdown happens, we gauge how long we can go without the government. We gauge the risks of the rad material we are charged with protecting and handling safely. We gauge how expensive our detectors are, how critical they are, how often they need maintenance – a large category of them, unfortunately, need weekly maintenance. Then we have to also deal with normal office politics – who’s best friends with the decision-maker, who’s the better BS artist, who has pull with the Feds, which things the Feds will quickly notice are broken and which they won’t, etc.

          Sometimes we throw away very expensive or dangerous rad material because we can’t safely store it during the shutdown (then we probably have to either buy a replacement later, or waste all previous investment in the project that was using it). Sometimes expensive equipment breaks because no one can maintain it during the shutdown. Sometimes important equipment is offline, or data analysis of it gets back-logged. Sometimes, very dedicated employees will try to fill the important gaps for free – which is great, in theory – and then once the shutdown is over, they say to themselves “This system is bonkers – I can’t believe they let something this important slide like that. My morale and faith in the system is depleted – I’m out,” and you get all the expense of hiring and training a replacement in a weird specialty that has high education requirements.

          Meanwhile, instead of doing their normal job, in the days leading up to a shutdown and the early days of the shutdown, pretty much everyone is spinning their wheels making plans for a short shutdown, plans for a long shutdown, plans for a very long shutdown, arguing about how important they are, and trying to figure out how much of their own arm they can cut off and still do their job well-enough. Just that cost is pretty high in and of itself, even if no shutdown actually happens.

          1. C Average*

            Wow. This is so very informative and interesting, but also unbelievably depressing. Thanks for doing such important work. And good luck.

            1. Safetykats*

              I don’t think most government contractors are in that sort of position. I’m also at a nuclear site. We are business as usual – as are our Feds – because we have weeks of carryover funding. At some point we will start canceling capital procurements and scaling back non-essential operations in order to keep essential operations running. However, there is no point at which we “throw away” radioactive material. Our facilities are designed with safe shutdown in mind, and there are plans and procedures for that. (Actually I’m not even sure what it would mean for us to “throw away” rad material – as legal disposal includes provisions that can take weeks or months, including packaging and transportation to a permitted storage or disposal facility. To do that would be more like the kind of controlled and time-consuming shutdown described above for a biological lab – except, of course, that incinerating the material doesn’t work for us.

          2. Safetykats*

            I don’t think most government contractors are in that sort of position. I’m also at a nuclear site. We are business as usual – as are our Feds – because we have weeks of carryover funding. At some point we will start canceling capital procurements and scaling back non-essential operations in order to keep essential operations running. However, there is no point at which we “throw away” radioactive material. Our facilities are designed with safe shutdown and containment in mind, and there are plans and procedures for that. (Actually I’m not even sure what it would mean for us to “throw away” rad material – as legal disposal includes provisions that can take weeks or months, including packaging and transportation to a permitted storage or disposal facility.)

            At any rate, since we know we have carryover funding and our management has been keeping us informed, I haven’t seen or heard much outside the norm. Actually the big excitement for the morning was a safety topic from a couple-worker who was on vacation in Hawaii last week.

        5. Genny*

          In addition to the other reasons others have pointed out, you still have to paid overhead costs (rent, utilities, etc.) without the benefit of money coming in or productivity coming out. It’s the same reason house flippers try to sell the property as quickly as possible – they don’t benefit from owning it and they have to pay carrying costs on it, thereby losing profit).

    6. Hills to Die on*

      That was good info—I had no idea it required a separate authorization. I hope this is resolved quickly not only for myself but for everyone impacted by this. You’ll all be in my thoughts.

    7. saf*

      It was authorized, but there are still some people waiting for it. There was a piece this morning in the Post about it.

  5. Foreign Octopus*

    As a British person, the entire process behind a government shutdown is strange to me. My only understanding of it comes from The West Wing when Jed Bartlett said “shut it down”.

    Is there a time limit on how long the government can be shutdown? Are things like benefits cut off? Who keeps working? And do the senators still get paid during this time?

      1. Anna*

        Several members of Congress are passing up on being paid during the shutdown, from what I’ve read. I don’t know how they get that to happen, but that’s the word on the Interwebs.

        1. HRH the Emperor Kuzco*

          From what I understand some of them as passing on their pay to their staffers who aren’t going to get paid, or even back-paid for this.

    1. Sarianna*

      I don’t know about the rest, but Congresscritters do get paid. Which is one of the major points of contention I’ve heard.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        Some are refusing pay, others are donating their pay to charities. But agreed on the point of contention there.

        1. Jilly*

          Enh, take that with a grain of salt. There was that one congressman who wrote that letter saying do not pay me during the shut down, but that’s not how it works. The person he addressed that letter to has no authority to stop the payroll process.

      2. Alli525*

        A couple legislators introduced a bill this morning that would prevent Congress from getting paid during the shutdown. It will never, ever happen, but it’s good to see that it has SOME Congressional support.

        1. Cyrus*

          Some Congressional support staff get paid. The individual Congressperson makes their own decisions about who’s essential or non-essential. (Which is not exactly the same as who gets paid, but close enough for this.)

        2. staffer*

          Congressional staff are generally treated the same as other Federal employees. We’ve been divided into essential (mostly senior staff and certain support staff like the attending physician’s office and the capitol police) and not (the majority of the people who work in the Capitol). The essential staff aren’t getting paid while the government is shut down, but last time around everyone got back pay. If the other Federal employees get back pay, we will too.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yep, the people who control the shutdown get paid for not doing their job; the rest of us either take a hit on not getting paid, or, lucky personnel classed as essential get to work and maybe not get paid.

        I feel like if Congress had to play by the same rules as the rest of us – getting paid for doing one’s actual job, having to be in the healthcare marketplace, etc. – a lot of things might change.

        Continuing resolutions are not a budget. It’s just a bunch of can-kicking.

    2. Jesmlet*

      All “essential” functions continue, so people still get their benefits and mail, and yes, to echo everyone else, senators still get paid, but I believe things like national monuments and such are closed.

      1. Natalie*

        Apparently national parks are open this time around, they just have zero staff? I’m not really sure how that works in practice.

        1. Lynca*

          Basically the physical trails, etc. are available for use at your own risk since they don’t have staff for emergencies, maintenance, etc. Often the parking lots are locked so you have to walk in from off site.

          1. Natalie*

            Well that’s just weird. I know there are a few national parks inside cities (if you’re ever in NYC the African Grave Yard park is the best 1/4 square block in all of Manhattan) but most of them don’t have ample street parking or whatever.

          2. blackcat*

            I can only imagine coming off a backcountry trail after a week or two out and finding one’s car locked inside of a parking lot :(

            The big thing for many parks (given the time of year) is that no roads will be plowed if there’s snow.

            Some parks are run (at least in part) by contractors, some of whom are working.

          3. paul*

            Bathrooms at the National Recreation Area nearest me were locked up :/ that was an unwelcome surprise Sunday…

          4. Delta Delta*

            During the 2013 shutdown I went for a hike in my local national park. I just walked around the sign that said it was closed due to the shutdown (as did many other local scofflaws looking for a nice place to take a walk). I made sure to stay close enough to the edge, though, where I knew there’d be cell service, just in case something happened and I needed to call 911. I did subsequently get run out of the park by an on-site ranger, who was there in an essential capacity because there’s a part of the park that has animals who need to be fed/cared for.

        2. StillWorking (for now)*

          DC local government is stepping in to pay, staff, and maintain the National Mall, Rock Creek, etc. Tourism impacts the local DC economy, so they’ve agreed to foot the bill on this one.

        3. Jesmlet*

          Right but I think places like the Statue of Liberty are closed unless the state agrees to pay for the staff

            1. new yorker*

              yes, to the tune of $65,000 per day! as a new yorker, i’m not too pleased with that. why should we have to bail out the government when we have our own budgetary problems (mta i’m looking at you!)?

              1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

                It probably does still work out to a net positive on the NYC economy because of all the associated tourism. Not that I’m saying you should be pleased.

                1. Proofin' Amy*

                  Our governor is claiming that yes, that Statue of Liberty does make enough in ticket fees to make it financially (as well as ideologically) worthwhile to keep it open.

            2. Elle Kay*

              New York will spend $65,000 a day to keep the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island open for visitors during the shutdown.

        4. Alli525*

          One of my friends is visiting Hawaii right now, and they have literal guards outside the gates to one of the parks he wanted to visit. (How are those guards getting paid, I have no idea.) So I think it varies by park.

          1. Nerdling*

            They’re probably not getting paid directly right now – they were likely already assigned to the park but didn’t normally do gate duty. They could easily be deemed essential personnel, meaning they work now and get paid later. Our local IRS office closed, except for the security personnel. That’s not uncommon.

            1. Radical Edward*

              Sometimes it gets really messy- in my hometown, the Blue Ridge Parkway brings in loads of tourist cash; it’s also a literal road through the mountains with tons of access points. They can close those off, but lots of trails and some campsites are physically impossible to keep people out of. It pushes extra traffic onto the highway and triggers mass confusion as lots of the sites accessible via / next to the Parkway are actually privately owned and run. (Some are only accessible via the Parkway, which created a lovely conundrum last time this happened.) It’s lucky for the area that January is the slowest month of the year, or else the entire hospitality and restaurant sector would be losing truly ridiculous amounts of revenue.

      2. attornaut*

        Mail isn’t an “essential function” (at least for shutdown purposes)–the USPS just doesn’t get any money from Congress/taxes so budget shutdowns have no impact.

    3. Pickles*

      Benefits get tricky. Health insurance is paid for a month out, for instance, but retirement is based upon time in job, plus contributions to retirement funds and various taxes gets tricky after contributions are missed (backpay resolves these issues, I think, but I’m not a benefits or HR expert). The Office of Personnel Management usually issues guides online.

      Sometimes mission essential personnel are allowed to work (you know when you get the job if you’ll be considered mission essential as it’s in the paperwork). That’s usually people who keep the lights on, make sure nothing burns down, etc. Last time they brought some other personnel back early for critical missions.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        I was wondering about health insurance. I heard it continues during shut down. Are you saying it only continues for one month during shut down?

        1. akgb*

          Case–Yes. Last time we were close enough to the 30 day mark that we looked at what we needed to do to pay the premiums because we had an infant.

          *caveat–married to a Fed

    4. Kyrielle*

      Congress still gets paid, Senators and Representatives both. It would take an amendment to the constitution to change that. (I suspect a law could reduce their pay during the shutdown, as long as they still were paid, but as they’d have to create the law, it seems unlikely to ever be written, let alone passed.) Some members of Congress will either refuse their pay for the shutdown period, or donate it to charity, as a sign of standing with the affected workers, but that’s purely a voluntary ‘show of good faith’ thing, and thus political.

      The other employees aren’t paid; essential workers (including military) still work, but they won’t be paid until the shutdown ends (at which point they will likely get back pay, but maybe not). The shutdown started after the 15th, so the military members received a paycheck before the shutdown started, but if we get to the start of February without Congress sorting it out, they won’t get that paycheck.

      “Essential” workers are the ones needed to run a bare minimum of services, and provide security. And of course, of six people who can do the same job, two might be essential and four more not (just because you only have to have two of them to provide the minimum of services that must go on).

      1. Anonymous Poster*

        To add onto why does Congress/The President continue to get paid, there’s a historical reason for it. Various republics didn’t necessarily pay their legislators for a variety of reasons, such as believing they needed to be men of means to know what’s best for the country, it being ‘crass’ to do so, or various other reasons. In the American Revolution it was identified as an abuse because in some cases, it allowed foreign powers of powerful magnates to step in and supplement the non-incomes of these legislators, and caused serious, serious problems (Please see: Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth & “Liberum Veto”, failures of the Dutch Republic/United Provinces, Venetian Republic).

        That was a major reason it was written into the Constitution that there’s remuneration for major office holders of the US, and it wasn’t just left up to change.

        I’m also fascinated by parliamentary countries where if a supply bill fails or is no longer in effect, the government collapses and snap elections are called. Oh, and history, but I suppose that much was obvious.

    5. Natalie*

      Who keeps working isn’t a fixed thing, but there are some big categories that are always considered essential. Firstly, things that have to do with protection of life & limb – federal law enforcement, military, air traffic control, and so forth. Secondly, agencies that have their own source of income such as the post office.

      I know some benefits continue to be paid, such as Social Security and Medicare benefits, but there could be some obscure benefits (like farm subsidies or something) that maybe don’t get processed.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        Even for essential jobs they will go down to minimum personnel. So a federal office of 10 law enforcement officers might have 3 per shift during shut down.

    6. Snark*

      The majority of Federal employees will be furloughed and unpaid for the duration of the shutdown. Most national parks and monuments are closed, national museums are closed, most federal agencies are running on skeleton crews and deferring most work. Positions related to law enforcement, public health and safety, air traffic control, and the like must still come to work, unpaid. Hopefully, congress authorizes back pay for federal employees, but this is not a guarantee or required. There’s no time limit. Benefits generally keep being paid, Congress and their staffs continue getting paid.

      1. WellRed*

        I think many national parks are open, but with very little staff. I am sorry for anyone that is impacted by this. We had furlough days for a while (two per month) because the company was experiencing some financial pains and it sucked.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s also my understanding that parks are open this time (although Snark is right that they’re normally closed—the Executive decided to keep them open this time to minimize public backlash over the shutdown).

          1. Kasia*

            Only some parks are open, and those that are just have the gates open but no services. I live near a national monument and the whole thing is closed, with a locked gate.

        2. Snark*

          Many, but not all – and yes, they’ve been left open, but there’s very few rangers around to, for example, make sure nobody’s trashing the resources or free-climbing in tennis shoes or scaring the mountain goats or whatever.

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        Those that have to work are guaranteed back pay. Those that don’t have to work (non-essential) are not guaranteed back pay. I always find it ironic that private sector businesses are not allowed to have working employees and skip a pay roll but the gov’t can without penalty.

        1. Natalie*

          I don’t believe it’s guaranteed for any essential workers except possibly the military. Congress has to specifically authorize backpay every time there is a shutdown.

    7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      There’s no time limit on a shutdown—it’s the result of failing to authorize spending (either through a budget or through a continuing resolution). The ‘95-‘96 shutdown, for example, lasted 27 days. Prior shutdowns have been as short as an afternoon. The news is reporting that the Senate intends to meet today at 12n to end the shutdown, for example.

      The Wikipedia article on U.S. government shutdowns is really helpful for explaining how/why the government shuts down.

      1. Trig*

        Thank you for the reference to the Wiki article. As a Canadian, I was thinking it was similar to proroguing parliament or something, which doesn’t change anything for regular federal employees. I hadn’t realised the extent of it until this thread, so it’s kinda mindboggling!

        1. Chinook*

          I remember the debate about proroging parliament – I think the deal was that, if no new budget is passes, the old operating budget stands while an election is called and until a new one is passed. At the same time, the Governor General can make the parties go back and work it out and not call an election if they think they are just being stubborn (which I think happened once). My heart goes out to those who are waiting to hear if they get to work.

      2. Incantanto*

        Northern Ireland hasn’t had a government for a year and money still goes on.
        Belgium didn’t have one for ages and things still happened/were paid for. I’m still confused as to why the US just, stops.

        1. AMPG*

          There was a legal ruling in the 1970’s (I don’t know the exact details, but I imagine they’re Googleable) that the government could not operate without funding authorization from Congress, i.e. a budget.

    8. ZSD*

      I don’t think there’s a time limit on how long it can be shut down. It’s just a question of when Congress gets its act together and passes a budget (or at least a continuing resolution, which is like a temporary budget). As long as there’s no law authorizing the funding of government, the government stays shut.

    9. Video Game Lurker*

      I’m sorry, but the first question made me chuckle.

      Unfortunately, AFAIK, there doesn’t seem to be a time limit for how long the government can be shut down for.
      “Essentials” keep working, so like military still maintain their positions and whatnots, but may not get paid during this time unless the backpay is put into action (and honestly, it should be, but politics are what they are). So, National Parks are closed, for example.

      However, state-run things like schools are still open because those are run by state, county, city governments. Unless one works for the Federal Government, things are still business as usual. Federal benefits are more iffy, I’v got peers who are still waiting for Financial Aid stuff that this may have an impact on.

      Except Senators still get paid, whatever one’s opinions may be on that.

      1. Antilles*

        You’re correct, there’s no actual limit; technically the government could stay on a status of “shutdown” forever.
        Of course, from a practical perspective, usually within a couple days or a week, there’s enough public pressure and anger that both sides come to the table and figure it out…or at least agree to pass a simple Continuing Resolution bill, which is basically just agreeing to keep the same budget for the next ___ months in order to push off the deadline and buy more time to come to a real agreement.
        Most of the political media seems to be speculating that they’ll do just that with a temporary CR that doesn’t address the immigration/DACA issue that’s at the heart of the dispute…so there’s a non-possibility that the
        current government shutdown ends soon, but we go down this whole cycle again in a few weeks or months whenever that CR expires.

        1. Video Game Lurker*

          I really wouldn’t be surprised at that. It seems to be the usual pattern of how these shutdowns go.

    10. Foreign Octopus*

      This is all really informative, thank you for answering my questions.

      I admire the idea behind America as a country, and I think the Bill of Rights and the Constitution are incredible documents (that might need some fine tuning every 100 years), but when things like this happens it’s like watching a car spin off the road. You know you shouldn’t watch but you do.

      I really hope everyone who is a federal employer and is effected by this can get back to work soon and it won’t be too damaging for you.

      1. Hey there*

        “when things like this happens it’s like watching a car spin off the road. You know you shouldn’t watch but you do”

        Perhaps not the most sensitive place to post this!

        1. Video Game Lurker*

          As someone who has actually been hit by a car (as a pedestrian), I didn’t find anything insensitive about the statement.
          Foreign Octopus was describing the equivalent of watching a horrible event even if you know you shouldn’t.

          1. Hey there*

            Sorry to hear that. Not what I meant, though, which is that this is a place for people going through a specific kind of professional (and personal) turmoil to seek help and commiseration, and so people who are very much not experiencing such turmoil should be sensitive about it and maybe not be rubbernecking.

            1. Video Game Lurker*

              Ah, my apologies. I was trying to figure out what specifically about the statement could have been an issue, and could only figure (from my perspective and understanding) it was a reference to car-related events. I understand what you meant now.

    11. Middle School Teacher*

      As a Canadian this is surreal to me. I talked about it in one of my classes and my kids had lots of questions so thanks for the informative answers here! You helped with a bunch of 13 year olds today :)

      (Mind you, the Canadian government isn’t one to talk. That Phoenix payroll debacle is just awful.)

  6. Brett*

    I’m sure several have heard about the USAA 0% interest loans for active military.
    If you bank with USAA, they have also extended the offer to USPHS and NOAA Corps employees and have come up with a range of other options for members affected by the shutdown who are not in these groups (sounds like mostly deferrals on payments of loans and other debts).
    Navy Federal is covering expected direct deposits for active military, coast guard, and DoD civilians.
    Chase also has a similar plan in place, but I don’t know the details on that one.

    In each of these cases, you have to call to find out your options and use them.

    1. J.B.*

      I posted downthread about credit unions. Mine offers short term loans and planning services, worth researching available options.

      1. Pickles*

        Oh, nice, if someone impacted doesn’t already have a budget, now is definitely the time to take advantage of those planning services.

  7. Banonymous*

    Somehow I’ve been deemed essential but my office is closed. So it’s basically a snow day for me in that I need to telework. My federal contacts are all offline so I’m not really sure what they expect me to do.

    1. Banonymous*

      Really I think I’m just here to tell someone when the sharepoint server crashes.

      I’m not sure who I am supposed to tell yet. I bet the person who would need to fix it is nonessential, too.

      1. Anna*

        You just need to pick up your phone and say, “The SharePoint server crashed.” Then put it down. The right person will find out.

  8. Jackie*

    Anyone work in public health and willing to share their thoughts about the impact of the shutdown on patients, disease surveillance, pandemic preparedness, research, etc?

    1. Jane Snow*

      I work in public health, at a company that contracts with the CDC. My understanding is that the CDC is operating on a skeleton crew right now (all of my project partners are furloughed). There’s been a lot of concern around here about this terrible flu epidemic and the potential consequences of shuttering the CDC at this time. 30 children have already died, and this is NOT a good time to not be monitoring what’s going on.

    2. Alice*

      Not great — new patients can’t get in to clinical trials at NIH. Some ongoing studies will suffer — there are staff members coming in to care for lab animals, but I believe that in vitro experiments can’t be tended, no matter how time-sensitive. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong. Grants are not being processed, nor are publications getting indexed by MEDLINE/PubMed.

      1. saby*

        and NLM isn’t responding to interlibrary loan requests and if something happens to Docline no one’s there to fix it. Which sounds like a small thing but NLM is a huge provider of interlibrary loans and many medical libraries have built their ILL workflows around Docline, besides the international importance of MEDLINE/PubMed, so this has an overflow effect on medical research throughout the US and internationally — at least if the shutdown drags on for more than a few days. (academic librarian outside the US)

      2. Another person*

        I also think that people who are doing experiments on fruit flies, worms etc aren’t allowed to come in since those don’t count as animals. Lots of Drosophila geneticists getting pretty concerned about their long-term experiments having to be redone.

    3. anon for this*

      Regular poster but don’t want to out myself
      I am 100% CDC-funded for bioterrorism/pandemic preparedness at the state and local level (so CDC-funded but a state health department employee), and have been told that since the process to transfer the required funds is “fully automated” and requires no human interaction that we are cleared to keep working. What is unclear to me is if we needed to request federal assets to respond to an incident (like antivirals from the stockpile, for example), if those would be affected or delayed.

      1. Sue No-Name*

        I believe that the PHS Commissioned Corps officers who are all considered “excepted” (and thus not furloughed) would be able to do at least the majority of the tasks required for emergency activation.

    4. Elizabeth*

      Healthcare provide here. Medicare claims will get processed, since they are handled by Administrative Contractors paid from the Medicare Trust Fund, so patients shouldn’t see any change. CDC pandemic surveillance (in particular, for influenza) will continue as that very small group has been deemed essential personnel. Research? Shut down. If a pandemic other than influenza starts up during the shutdown, it may not get noticed until the shutdown is over, but state disease surveillance programs are mostly still running, so it will be locale-dependent.

      We’ve been carrying the weight on the claims for S-CHIP since the program hasn’t been re-authorized. We’ve been told that everyone expects it to be re-authorized and that the claims will eventually get paid, but until we see actual movement, we expect to write off those services.

      1. anon for this*

        excellent point- a lot of syndromic/disease surveillance is conducted at the state/local level and then reported to the CDC. So we may not get info on national trends but it’s still happening at the state/local level

      2. mrs__peel*

        I work for a private contractor that’s hired by Medicare to handle administrative issues. Our division is considered “essential”, since we handle some time-sensitive issues relating to health care (e.g., expedited appeals for prescription drugs, etc.) So it’s business as usual for us.

    5. the one who got away*

      I have a good friend who is a cancer researcher at a government agency. He’s not allowed to go into the lab at all. His samples are going to degrade and he’ll have to start over whenever he’s allowed to go back.

    6. Anonacademic*

      Research here. As far as I know the VA hospital is essential and stays open. However NIH grant staff can not communicate with applicants and it’s right in the middle of an application cycle. It’s my first big grant application and now there’s even more uncertainty. I hope they extend the deadlines.

    7. Brunch with Sylvia*

      VA nurse here. Clinical staff is essential, hospitals stay open, labs, XRays, surgeries all proceed. Some clerical positions are non-essential. Our agency has a few weeks of carryover funding. I had just started at the VA during the 22 day shut down of 1995-96..mid December through early January. That was pretty scary as it included two paycheck cycles. I actually lived in a duplex and the tenants on the other side were a two-Fed household. Our landlord was very understanding but it was probably scary for him, too! I banked at the Federal Credit union at that time and they made it very easy to get a short term loan if needed.

  9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I was a federal employee during the 2013 shutdown. My branch deemed everyone essential (we had already endured budget cuts and a hiring freeze and were as lean as we could be) and worked without pay for the 13 or so days of the shutdown. We ultimately received backpay, but we didn’t know that going into the shutdown. We had no idea of the timing of a deal and little hope of a CR when the shutdown started. It was awful.

    I think non-feds don’t understand that it’s not a vacation, and there were a lot of nasty comments made about federal employees in the lead up to and during the shutdown. Nasty comments about government workers aren’t rare, but it hurts more when you’re experiencing financial strife and have made career trade
    -offs ($$$ and less red tape) to serve.

    For folks going through the shutdown, I recommend:
    Limit your news watching or reading to twice/day (we played CSPAN in our office and probably would have felt happier if we hadn’t);
    Activate your rainy-day financial plan, if you have one;
    Try to negotiate late rent/mortgage payment for February;
    If you have kids, try to keep home life business as usual;
    Get out of the house and do whatever (low cost) things might help alleviate stress, like running, yoga, meditation, seeing friends, etc.;
    Ask your family and friends to please refrain from asking you about the shutdown;
    Check to see if your local businesses are running specials for federal employees—several bars in our area gave us free beer and apps.

    It sucks. I’m sorry :(

    1. Pickles*

      Yeah, the only good things about working during the shutdown with no idea if we’d be paid was that it kept our minds busy. But we turned the TVs off. That really helped.

      The nasty comments didn’t. I said it in another comment, but we lose great people over these messes, needless bureaucracy that prevents flexibility, and the near-inability to fire poor performers. I would love an overhaul of the whole government hiring and personnel system.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        Bingo. I haven’t entered yet, but I’m part of a fellowship program that involves working for the federal government for five years, with an eye to having people stay for their whole careers. I’ve already decided that I’m doing my five and getting out, because I cannot trust the legislature to let me do what they’ve spent money training me to do.

    2. DCGirl*

      Georgetown University is providing two free tickets to its game Wednesday night at the Capital One Area to folks with government IDs.

    3. DNDL*

      “Get out of the house and do whatever (low cost) things might help alleviate stress, like running, yoga, meditation, seeing friends, etc.;”

      A local yarn store is offering free knitting classes for employees effected by this shut down. I have a feeling you can probably find some good deals around right now as needed. There’s also a BBQ place by me offering anyone with a federal ID a free sandwich each day the shut down continues.

    4. LadyKelvin*

      Its great that feds often get backpay for their time off, but I’m not a Fed who works on Fed money and I’m furloughed without pay and I won’t be getting backpay. Neither will any of the minimum wage janitors/security guards/cafeteria workers who (in my very high COL state) will probably struggle to pay bills and are just out that money. So I certainly get frustrated when my Federal colleagues tell me that I should enjoy my time off, because I don’t get the same benefits of the time off as them. Your backpay might be uncertain, but mine is a definite no.

      1. Basia, also a Fed*

        Yes, although my agency is not affected due to our unique funding source, I work in a federal building and we are the only ones still here. I feel terrible for the custodians, cafeteria workers, etc., many of whom are living paycheck to paycheck, who will definitely not be getting back pay.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        That’s fair. It’s incredibly tone-deaf for them to tell folks who are also experiencing the shutdown (but without any possibility of backpay) to “enjoy” the “time off” for the same reason it’s tone-deaf for people to say that to feds. I’m very sorry you and your colleagues have had that experience—it sounds even more awful.

      3. Frankie Bergstein*

        I agree. Last shutdown, everyone who supported Federal civilian employees didn’t get paid. For example, some of the food trucks whose customer base is largely federal employees did not make money. That affects their 20 employees, and there’s just no back pay for that. That’s a lot of people and their families. Backpay is great, but that is not relevant for everyone.

    5. LizM*

      Great advice. On the financial front, I’d add, it doesn’t hurt to ask your bank/lenders if you can delay payments. My credit union and student loans were both willing to defer payment during the 2013 shutdown.

      I was really frustrated by the family and friends who constantly asked me for updates. I didn’t know any more than they did, I was getting all my info from the news as well. Sometimes I actually knew less because I had turned the news off and had spent the day gardening (the 2013 shutdown is when I decided to tear out all of the ivy in my yard and totally redo the landscaping).

  10. Snark*

    Contractor here. Thankfully, I’m basically assured that my paychecks will continue, but there’s a lot of contractors who were ordered to stop work, or whose work (cleaning, IT helpdesk, admin support) can’t be taken to another office.

    Please keep in mind: this HEMHORRHAGES money. There’s a lot of folks who seem perversely delighted at this, but there’s two and a half million people directly employed by the federal government, not including contractors. Every Federal workday equates to 6,849 worker-years. Say 60% of the Federal workforce is furloughed today. Do the math on how much lost productivity that equates to – and that’s to say nothing of the lost tourism impact of a shuttered Smithsonian and parks system and other lost earnings. And chances are, at least hopefully, back pay will be disbursed, so that’s thousands of years worth of work that will be paid for but not actually done.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yes. The math is pretty clear—shutdowns are more expensive than staying open, and CRs are more expensive than budgets. It’s wasteful and exceedingly frustrating. It’s also frustrating to know you’re still expected to do your job, but your quasi-bosses experience no harm from failing to do theirs.

  11. MissingArizona*

    We got a little lucky this round. My husband is active duty, and we have some savings, our PCS was already approved, and we live on base. Unless this shut down lasts for a while, we’re going to be ok. Also, as mentioned above, USAA does 0% loans just in case. I do feel bad for people that live off base, and hopefully their landlords are understanding.

    1. Drago Cucina*

      Good to hear that. Back in the late 70s I lived through one of these as an E4 in the Army. Fortunately the credit union that I had my car loan with put a hold on collecting all payments. Later when I lived through other shutdowns (husband active duty) I always made sure we had a month reserves. It meant a lot of penny pinching, but I never wanted to live with that uncertainty again.

      1. MissingArizona*

        My Dad went through a couple in his military career, we listened when he said to have some savings.

    2. Adara*

      My husband is also active duty and was just relieved since we’re PSCing in about 9 days. Thankfully, we’ve already received the DLA and per diem for the move itself, but if this continues too long, getting reimbursed for the PPM portion will take a while.

      We’ll be ok, but fingers crossed this gets resolved quickly!

      1. MissingArizona*

        We just had our moving company approved on Friday, we have to schedule the actual date, but we’ve got the company and that’s all that matters. I’m sure some aspects will get complicated, but financially we can swing this.

  12. Facepalm*

    Contractor here. In the short term, the funding was already in place on my contract and it’s work as usual for us. Our federal counterparts are shut down, so we’re just hoping nothing breaks until they get back, since they have final say on any decisions. We went through the last shutdown unaffected, but we get a lot of good guidance and from pur company beforehand, for example, if our funding runs out, we can take PTO to continue to have a paycheck, or take unpaid leave. Etc. Fingers crossed for a quick, good resolution.

    1. Pickles*

      Ohhh, I forgot about that. Contractors having to take leave wiped out some of our folks’ leave entirely for the year during the last one.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        I saw a commenter on Reddit who’s a contractor saying that they’re required to take PTO until the shutdown ends or their PTO runs out, which they’re concerned will impact their ability to travel for their wedding later this year. :-(

  13. Kristyrennt*

    If you have an opportunity to get your last pay stub today, take it. Who knows if the people maintaining those websites are essential.

    In the case this lasts long enough to file unemployment, you’ll find it helpful.

    1. Pickles*

      The eOPF (electronic official personnel file) site won’t work from a non-gov’t computer, but MyBiz+ should with a CAC reader if you need it and didn’t get it, if you’re on that system. But you have to pay back unemployment if there’s backpay.

  14. thesoundofmusic*

    if people are going to get back pay, why aren’t they working now? Seems illogical–the public is suffering from certain services being shut down, but then we pay the people who weren’t there? I do not have a philosophical issue with paying people back pay, but why not have them performing the services for which they are going to get paid for anyway? Does anyone have any information about this?

      1. Anonfortoday*

        I have friends who are furloughed and every single one would prefer to be working. Those if us who are working are also worried about our future paychecks, if this goes on.

    1. Jane Snow*

      Basically, they CANNOT work now, because Congress hasn’t authorized the money. Once Congress authorizes the money, it’s unfrozen for back pay, but basically the money doesn’t exist until it’s approved. In other words, there’s no guarantee the money will ever exist until it does. I think it’s a constitutional thing.

      1. thesoundofmusic*

        I understand that, but there are essential personnel who are working. . I am wondering what the law is around this? Is it that essential personnel will eventually get paid, but there is no requirement to pay non essential personnel? ? I just don’t understand….. Maybe my problem is expecting Congress to be logical?

        1. Natalie*

          I don’t think there’s any requirement to pay any of them. The backpay has to be specifically authorized.

          1. Anonfortoday*

            It would be a PR nightmare not to. A lot of families in DC have two fed parents. Losing two whole paychecks isn’t a loss many can absorb.

              1. Anonfortoday*

                True, but that is why we are decently confident it will happen. The consequences of not doing it would be catastrophic. It would certainly put a damper on recruiting. The whole deal with being a fed is you generally make significantly less than in the private sector (it is true for me) but you stay for the stability and work/life balance. Kill the stability and you are going to have a serious brain drain.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  The sequester + 2013 caused a loss of experienced personnel. The shutdown does not have to be long to demoralize people and encourage them to leave.

                2. Natalie*

                  Okay? I’m not disagreeing with you, but the PR aspect has nothing to do with the question I was answering: “I am wondering what the law is around this? Is it that essential personnel will eventually get paid, but there is no requirement to pay non essential personnel?”

                3. Sue No-Name*

                  Some of it has to do with the existence of unions for some government jobs (which would sue if their terms were violated, like not paying their employees). Some of it has to do with the optics of not paying salaried employees for a problem not of their creation.

                4. Beatrice*

                  Natalie, there is no requirement to issue back pay to either the essential personnel who are working, or to the nonessential personnel who are unable to work. Congress makes a decision on how to handle back pay after each shut down, and they have the power to decide that some or all federal employees impacted by the shutdown will not be paid.

                5. Observer*

                  As others have noted, past shut downs, even with the back pay showing up eventually, have already caused recruiting and retention problems.

        2. SL #2*

          I think essential personnel will get their paychecks as normal, or with a slight delay? Someone correct me if I’m wrong, though.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            No, you don’t unless there’s a later bill authorizing backpay. Essential personnel work without a paycheck and are not paid during a shutdown unless the agency is paying you out of fees it receives from users.

            1. SL #2*

              Oooof. I lived in DC during the last shutdown and most of my fed friends were non-essential because we were all junior staff and/or interns. I know it’s the law, but really, if you’re going to deem someone essential, you should at least guarantee the paycheck.

          2. Anonfortoday*

            Yeah, even though my org is non-tax funded there is no guarantee I am going to get paid for my hours during the shutdown. But they always have paid us, and the work needs to get done, so here I am.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Essential personnel have no guarantee that they’ll receive backpay. That was my experience—we had to work, but we didn’t know if we’d be paid (the federal govern,ent is not subject to the same labor laws that control private employers).

          There’s no financial logic to a shutdown. Even without backpay, it costs the economy dearly. It’s all about political brinksmanship.

          1. Kasia*

            No, that isn’t true. Employees who work will get paid though it may be late. Employees who do not work are not guaranteed back pay. For non-FLSA exempt employees, not paying them on time is a violation. Fines can be up to the amount of withheld pay. After the last furlough, there was a lawsuit from employees who worked and were paid late. The government lost and will owe damages to the class which I don’t think have been calculated yet. The case is Martin v. US.

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

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              That was not my experience, but I think it’s because we were FLSA-exempt (I believe the majority of federal workers are exempt, but I’m on my phone and would need to double check). Of course, exempt employees are not impacted by Martin and continue to work without the guarantee of payment.

              1. Kasia*

                The late payments that were the subject of Martin only apply to FLSA-non-exempt employees, but it does show that federal labor law does apply to the federal government.

                I’ll post a link to the OPM website here though I think it will require moderation (it’s the same paragraph I posted above). Excepted employees, which in this case means excepted from the furlough, nothing to do with FLSA, will absolutely be paid once the government is reopened. Backpay

                https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/furlough-guidance/guidance-for-shutdown-furloughs.pdf (See page 6, section D: Pay).

                Also, if you don’t like OPM, here’s another cite from the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/politics/government-shutdown-faq/?utm_term=.f33e0e5114a3 (See the section “Who keeps working during a government shutdown?” paragraph 4: “Because agencies are required to pay for services performed, those employees are guaranteed to be paid after Congress passes — and the president signs — a new appropriation or continuing resolution. “).

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Oh, this is a massive change since 2013! Thank you for the correction, and I apologize for being so stubborn with my (clearly outdated and incorrect) understanding.

            2. mirror*

              My husband is currently at work right now as an air traffic controller. He is the Union president for our airport. They are not guaranteed backpay.

        4. Kj*

          Nope, essential personnel work for free. Back pay may be given at a later date, but their is no guarantee of that….

    2. Natalie*

      Philosophically, it’s like giving people a severance payment if you lay them off. They’re not staying home from work by choice, they’re legally required to. As far as I understand, they can’t even use banked vacation pay or anything if they weren’t authorized backpay. So not giving them backpay would be pretty mean.

    3. Sal*

      Because back pay isn’t guaranteed. So you can’t have people working and then not pay them. (Except military.)

      1. Pickles*

        And while military’s still at work, and can be required to work without pay, it’s a political disaster to say you won’t pay them – and then you lose all the best people who have options to get out of the service.

        1. Sal*

          Yup, for sure. It’s a bad look to not backpay feds, but it’s an even worse look to not backpay military.

    4. Pickles*

      To some extent, it’s politics; it looks really bad politically. We’re legally forbidden from working. No telework, no checking email, no phone calls, nothing. It can be a liability if someone works on site without authorization, for instance. And although the Feds set the rules, we all know from reading this site that work done requires payment within certain amounts of time. There’s no money to fund us. I’m not an HR or budgetary expert, though.

    5. Fed*

      The government is not allowed to incur new debt during a shutdown. Backpay isnt guaranteed until a new resolution is passed. This is why we can’t use annual or sick leave to cover pay during a shut down either. Those who are working will be paid when we return, those furloughed arent guaranteed pay (but have historically always gotten it)

      1. Pickles*

        Right, and my organization signed paperwork specifically saying no volunteer work would be permitted. I assume that’s everywhere, but not sure. Part of this morning’s reporting for four hours.

        1. Do not come to work; do not collect your pay check.*

          In 2013, they were very clear that we could do no work. Do not log in your government computer or email account. Violating that and trying to work when you were furloughed could get you in trouble.

          Which is actually a good thing because to not enforce the not working would most likely lead to pressure to people to volunteer to work without pay during the furlough.

    6. Elf*

      It takes an additional act of congress to authorize backpay, so there is no guarantee. There is, in fact, no guarantee that the people who are there and working will ever get paid. Really, it’s just that the whole idea of a government shutdown makes no sense, so it isn’t super useful to try to argue about whether details of it make sense.

    7. Tableau Wizard*

      I think it’s because there is no guarantee that they get back pay. Would you work for a delayed paycheck that may or may not ever come? I wouldn’t.

    8. Amy S*

      Sounds like it’s not a guaranteed thing that they will get back pay. Usually happens, but it’s not certain.

    9. Oblique Fed*

      There is a law called the Anti-Deficiency Act that makes it a federal crime to incur financial obligations on the part of the government without an act of Congress authorizing the money to be spent.

      If federal employees work, we are obligating the government to pay us.

      The feds can’t work because it would literally be a federal crime.

      This is the same law that means a contractor can’t start work until the contract is signed.

      Excepted employees work during the shutdown, but they don’t get paid until afterward because the people who process payroll are on furlough.

      Non-excepted employees will only receive back pay if Congress passes a specific law to do so. Historically, Congress always has so far, but they are not required to.

    10. nonegiven*

      Back pay still has to go through Congress and be signed by the President, just like any other bill.

  15. Anonfortoday*

    My office has money reserves so we are staying open unrestricted with permission from OPM. My spouse has it worse, they can only work on contracts funded by FY17. No one really knows what to do. He has to work but has to be super careful on what he works on, which seems like a huge mess.

    1. AMPG*

      I was working on a federal contract during the 2013 shutdown, and we were in the same boat. Our contract lined up with the fiscal year (that ended the day before the shutdown took effect), so we couldn’t do any new work, but we were allowed to do “clean-up” work from the prior fiscal year, as specified in our contract. It was tricky at times.

      On the other hand, the lighter work hours allowed me to have a low-stress month while I was going through fertility treatments for what I had already decided would be the last time, and I think the easier schedule might have contributed to their success.

  16. DCGirl*

    My husband has been furloughed. He had to go in for four hours this morning to set his out-of-office messages, submit his current timesheet, and provide a list of key filing deadlines in the next two weeks for the people who have not been furloughed.

    As others have pointed out, the ripple effect in the DC area is considerable. At my last job, I worked across the street from the Government Printing Office, and even the hot dog vendor that always set up in front our building took a financial hit.

    1. Pickles*

      Not just DC. And DC is probably more survivable for small businesses than smaller non-Beltway areas. I know of at least one local branch that’s just plain shutting down to save money until it’s reopened.

    2. SL #2*

      I lived in DC in 2013 near Dupont Circle; I know the food trucks that set up there took a big hit, but there were also a bunch of restaurants offering shutdown specials? I don’t know if that ultimately became profitable or if it was just enough to help defray the financial loss.

      The only bright side of it was that I saw a lot of happy dogs getting daytime walks…

      1. Pickles*

        My two cats are thrilled. And my feet are toasty warm.

        Slightly off topic, but am planning to use the time as best I can. I’m not getting up at 0500, but won’t go night owl as I’d prefer. Read, work out, cook nutritious meals using what’s in my pantry and freeze the leftovers. That gives me something to do and keeps me from spending money (I *might* have an Amazon habit). Any other good ideas, especially if it goes on for a while?

            1. SarahKay*

              Or do you have any hobbies you’ve been meaning to get back to, where you already have the equipment? E.g. a half-knitted scarf, a model airplane kit to build, that sort of thing. (Your comment about how you *might* have an Amazon habit made me think of how I *might* have a slightly-too-large fabric stash that needs me to get/find/make the time to convert it into actual garments.)

        1. mrs__peel*

          If you have an Amazon Prime account, this might be a good time to check out their selection of free ebooks, music, etc.

  17. Cheeztoast*

    I am an onsite contractor for CDC and the daughter of somebody who worked for NIH during the very long shutdown in the ’80s. Federal employees got back pay. In 2013, federal employees got back pay.

    Every contractor/contract is different. My contract is for services to the specific division I work for and if they are shut down, I don’t work. I can take any PTO I have during the shutdown but I can’t work and I won’t be earning PTO or “back pay”. I know that the admin contractors in my area do not get PTO or pay. Period. In 2013, we did a collection and all kicked in money for the admin contractors that don’t get any pay or leave. I just happen to work with nice people.

    There was a question above about why people would get back pay when not allowed to work – write your Congress people. It’s a completely valid question. All of us would prefer to be working and earning our money.

  18. ContractORama*

    I’m a non-essential contractor who works in a federal building using federal equipment. I’ve been told that I’ll be locked out – no work, no email if this morning’s effort doesn’t pass. While Civil Servants may get back pay, we will not. So unless I use my paltry PTO, no pay for me after today.

  19. J.B.*

    Some of this will eventually impact state and local budgets and those who depend on them. States finally crawling out from the post-2008 junk may well be hit by this and by tax law changes. To anyone working for government at any level, I strongly recommend you research credit unions available to you. Mine has shot term loans and other resources tied to major changes.

  20. M_Lynn*

    Helpful tip if there are any NGO workers reading this. If you have AmeriCorps*VISTA members, THEY WILL NOT BE GETTING PAID DURING THE SHUTDOWN.

    I believe other AmeriCorps members are paid differently and may not be (as?) affected, but VISTAs are paid directly from the Corporation of National and Community Service so they won’t be getting a check cut during the shutdown. I was a VISTA during the 2011 almost-shut down so I was involved in a lot of personal prep work for this. VISTA members are paid very little (for me in 2011 in Indiana it was $780/month), so not getting that paycheck can be utterly devastating for people living on the poverty line. VISTA members are required to continue to show up to work during this time and are prevented from holding outside employment. Rent is still gonna be due next week for a lot of people, despite not receiving their tiny paycheck.

    I’d recommend that employers proactively talk to VISTA members and see what kind of help they may need. They may not feel comfortable going to their boss and saying that they’re struggling, and they may not have family or other resources to scrap by for a while. If the organization can be flexible in providing a loan or other financial assistance, please consider it as VISTAs are purposefully put in a precarious financial situation but are motivated by national service and might need help.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      This is incredibly helpful, thank you. Do you know what the legalities are around offering a loan/bonus/etc. to VISTAs?

      1. M_Lynn*

        Unfortunately I have no idea! I am sure whoever the POC for VISTA at the org has a handbook of sorts from CNCS.

    2. Janey-Jane*

      I believe VISTA’s are now allowed to hold outside employment, like the other branches of Americorps. (2012 VISTA here.) I think this has only changed in the last few years.

      But yes, check in on your friendly VISTA and make sure they can make it through!

      1. nonprofit fun*

        Yes, the policy changed in 2014 right as I was finishing up VISTA (darn!). Members are now allowed to hold an additional outside job.

    3. August*

      Thanks for pointing this out! I’m a VISTA, and, in my area we receive roughly $500 a month. Luckily, my position is funded through a grant, so I’m not affected, but I do know several VISTA members who won’t be able to pay rent or buy food if their paycheck doesn’t come through. From what I know, offering a loan to VISTAs isn’t illegal, but it’s definitely something CNCS doesn’t want going on. One VISTA I know has an especially supportive supervisor who’s let them stop working for the duration of the shutdown, so that they can pick up hours at their outside job.

    4. tigerlily*

      I’m very curious how this is affecting the AmeriCorps*NCCC folks – seeing as unlike all the other AmeriCorps programs, their housing and food and transportation is all provided for them by the CNCS. Are they even still able to live on the campuses right now?

  21. ChemistryChick*

    I don’t work for the federal government, but what my company does is dependent on government funding/personnel. We have contracts already in place, but we’re anticipating getting stop work orders on a couple of our programs within 3-4 days unless a deal is reached sooner based on what happened in 2013. For now it’s runaroundgetasmuchdoneonthoseprogramsaspossiblequickbeforetheystopit mode.

    1. Ann O’Nemity*

      Similar situation with grants. In 2013 we were paid for work completed during the shutdown but there’s no guarantee. Our funding agency had been silent so far.

  22. The Person from the Resume*

    My org has money to stay open for a couple of days. We are working today, but if the noon vote still leaves us shutdown I have the impression we have the rest of today and tomorrow morning to gracefully shutdown as much as possible. I have a contract that will probably be halted. It’s been awarded and therefore the money was allocated last year but they can’t work without government oversight so they’ll have to stop too. That’s expected based on 2013 but we have very little guidance yet.

  23. Lillian Styx*

    I got a notice Friday that the judiciary is set for business as usual until Feb 9. My own court said they will reassess on or around Feb 12.

  24. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    The bank that owns my firm circulated an employee-wide email this morning basically saying “so FYI the government shut down, here are all the extra resources for clients who have been furloughed or are working without pay right now, please be extra kind to these clients as this is terribly stressful for them.” Not (I hope!) that any of us needed to be told that, but it was still nice to see someone higher up thinking of that as part of the service reminder.

  25. Bookworm*

    I was an intern with an agency during the last one (I had only been there for like 2 weeks, too!) so I’m feeling all of the people who are affected by this one. I don’t think I have any relevant advice since I wasn’t really affected (I wasn’t paid and had just started) but you’re not alone. Hang in there and hope this ends soon.

    I suppose one thing to keep in mind is to try to think of anything that may need “maintenance” of any sort since none of us know how long this will last. Even though I hadn’t been there long enough to have anything that needed to be taken care of, there may be files or projects that might need minor updates or something that you might forget about if you’re not in the office/can’t access them. Or, on a more practical level, I remember people asking co-workers who were considered “essential” and were in the office if they could do stuff like water the office plants and throw out leftovers in the fridge before they started to smell and all.

    Good luck to everyone affected.

    1. SL #2*

      My roommate was a fed intern during the last shutdown. She got back into baking, so every day, I’d come home (I was working for a consulting firm) and there would be a fresh platter of baked goods… that was really the only silver lining. Otherwise, it sucked for a lot of people. :(

  26. Jilly*

    I’m an offsite contractor. Our contract is currently obligated but even before this we were getting close to our ceiling and waiting on the agency to give us a ceiling increase to get us through the end date of the contract this summer (I think we’re maybe set to get through Feb). For now, I’m mostly able to work but I won’t be able to finalize some things until I get feedback from agency counterparts once they are back at work. We’re a little cramped right now though because even though I am offsite, we did have a bunch of people who were onsite who now have to work out of our space (while onsite they were using agency computers but they were also assigned company computers because they worked offsite with us while awaiting facility clearance).

    However, the majority of people at my company work on other contracts that require onsite work. If they can’t access the agency site and aren’t authorized/have the equipment for telework, they have to use PTO or take leave without pay during a shut down.

  27. AKchic*

    For me, as a contractor, it’s business as usual. Granted, my boss is an idiot who thinks that he is fulfilling “contract obligations” and will get an attaboy for doing so.

  28. memyselfandi*

    We are not federal but work with USCIS. We received this regarding immigration:

    The current lapse in annual appropriated funding for the U.S. government does not affect USCIS’ fee-funded activities. Our offices will remain open, and all applicants should attend interviews and appointments as scheduled.
    However, several USCIS programs will either expire or suspend operations, or be otherwise affected, until they receive appropriated funds or are reauthorized by Congress. These include:

    • Conrad 30 J-1 doctors. This program allows J-1 doctors to apply for a waiver of the two-year residence requirement after completing the J-1 exchange visitor program. The expiration only affects the date by which the J-1 doctor must have entered the United States; it is not a shutdown of the Conrad 30 program entirely.

    1. Dankar*

      Yep, SEVIS is still up and running. I haven’t been able to get in contact with any reps since late Thursday, but we received an approval on a record today, so I know they’re working.

      This was the only thing I was worried about heading into the shutdown, but I have a lot of sympathy for the furloughed employees. Here’s hoping this is resolved soon.

    2. Blue Anne*

      So wait, does this mean immigration applications are still grinding through processing?

      I have a K1 application in for my fiance, and I know that the process takes months and the shutdown is likely to be only a couple days, but I’m feeling really hopeless anyway.

      1. sap*

        My husband had to send. his. green card. back. Because someone made a serious, obvious, “he won’t be let back into the country depending on the border agent’s mood” typo on his green card such that it didn’t match his passport.

        The replacement is already months behind, and I am really stressed about waiting even longer for it. He’s legally a permanent resident, but the only proof we have is some really unofficial looking paperwork that I’m 100% sure no ICE agent would recognize and that it’s not feasible for him to carry around because multiple letter-sized papers don’t fit in a wallet.

        So I really feel you on “this doesn’t affect my paycheck but I’m still freaking out about it blowing up my life.”. :/

        1. Mm Hmm*

          This isn’t much, but if your husband has a smartphone he could photograph the individual forms so he’d have something on him til he could produce the paper copies.

          1. sap*

            Nope. He’d definitely rather be detained for a week than unlock his devices for ICE; and as a lawyer, I would largely agree with that.

            1. Minerva McGonagall*

              Maybe scan them and put them on a memory stick? That what we used to do with our POAs and all before we could legally get married.

              Though, that was before so many organizations banned the use of memory sticks due to the risk of viruses…

              1. sap*

                I have taken the available steps to reduce the probability of trouble resulting from the lack of physical green card, but the reality of immigration law and on-the-ground practices is that not having one in hard copy is riskier than having one.

  29. Squeaky Hedgehog*

    State worker and long time lurker here. I work for an agency that is fully federally funded. Our agency does the bulk of the work on one program for a very large federal agency that we all have heard of. At this point we are deemed essential and are required to report to work (in a blizzard, naturally) and told we may or may not get paid for the work we do.

    I am a single parent (not by choice, but that’s another long, ugly story) and I also support my elderly mother. I wish Congress could understand that my mortgage still comes due, mom’s pharmacy bill still needs paid, and my daughter still needs to eat, no matter what the government is doing.

    The whole situation is remarkably stressful, and totally absurd. I guess I don’t really have a point except to tell people to hang in there, you are not alone, and one way or another we will get through this and be okay.

  30. MiaRose*

    I’m not a federal worker, but my good friend, who is one, mentioned that federal workers should call their credit card companies to extend their grace periods, and to start asking for official letters verifying their positions, in case the credit companies ask for them as proof. My friend mentioned that there weren’t many provisions that helped anyone during shutdowns/furloughs, so you essentially have to help yourself. My friend also didn’t expect guaranteed back pay for hours worked on essential tasks.

    In the meantime, I wonder if selling off items on eBay or Etsy might help. I ended up doing that when I lost my job. It really made me realize I had a lot of non-essential things hanging around the place that turned into needed cash.

    1. Pickles*

      If organizations use MyBiz+, they can verify employment through there using a CAC reader.

      But some organizations/positions require pre-approval for other jobs, including selling things online. Don’t lose your real job in favor of short term help! This is huge, depending on where you work.

      1. MiaRose*

        Interesting, this is not something I thought about with federal jobs. My friend would know, but not me. This really convinces me to never work for the government. Ugh.

  31. Amber Rose*

    I’m so sorry. I have all my fingers and toes crossed for all of you that this is resolved quickly and back pay is sorted out painlessly. Sadly, there isn’t anything else I can do.

  32. Anonacademic*

    Bad news for me/Science: it’s the middle of an NIH grant cycle and now I can’t get information from anyone about my upcoming application.

    The good news is my federal fellowship includes a University appointment and they are still open so I can keep working. Just not sure about the “getting paid” part.

    Fun times!

  33. EmilyAnn*

    I just started work for a fee-funded agency. That means we’re funded by user fees, not appropriations so we will continue working. My issue is that my new job doesn’t seem to have a lot for me to do and I’m really bored.

    The last shutdown, I baked a lot and worked out every day. I recommend making a list of house projects and getting them done. I took advantage of one free offer. I think I met up for lunch with one friend, but I didn’t want to spend any money during that time because I wasn’t sure when a paycheck was coming. I didn’t enjoy it. I liked my job and I liked doing it well. Sitting around the house not working wasn’t good for mental health. After a week, I was recalled as essential.

  34. Nox*

    I have a dumb question, are places like ICE still up and running? Like is this all of the federal government that’s shut down or only certain parts?

    I’m asking because of all of these raids that happened near me recently so I’m curious if these people are still able to raid places or what.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Only certain parts of the government shut down. I know USCIS is open, as are the courts, because they are partially funded by user fees and can use that money to fund operations. Because the military is workin for national security reasons, I suspect ICE is also still open and ready to raid.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Though if government shutdowns basically meant The Purge in real life, maybe they wouldn’t happen so often.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      I have a brother who works for Border Patrol, and in the last shutdown he was required to keep working, not knowing if he’d get paid or not. I suspect that hasn’t changed.

  35. KB*

    Federal Worker here. My agency is a working capital fund so at the time being still up and running as normal. If this shutdown lasts more than a couple of weeks, we will all start to be furloughed, except the mission essential positions. One thing I wanted to note, just because some agencies will get approval for back pay it does not mean everyone gets it. In 2013, everyone at my agency was forced to take one day off a week (which compared to almost all other agencies was not that bad) but they never received back pay for that time.

    1. Cacwgrl*

      That 12 week (I think it was 12) furlough is still being felt in our workforce. Recruitment took a hit, journeyman left for private sector or other reasons and we still have not completely covered.

      I was the only CTR in my project at the time so my forward thinking program manager authorized me to quietly telework to keep the business office running business as usual during the mandatory time off period. We managed to expend on time and not take a loss but it was tough keeping it on the DL for morale. They held up my conversion until after the 13 day shut down later on just in case, but we’ve been ok as WCF anyway.

      We work side by side with other who are not WCF. Knowing they were going through shut down while we did not have an impact yesterday was not fun. You feel guilty for something you can’t control.

  36. The Cosmic Avenger*

    I’m lucky, our contract is structured so we can all keep working. And I have plenty of things I can do without 1) client input or 2) updating the public-facing websites. So while this sucks, it’s not going to be a hardship for me or for my coworkers, as far as I can tell. And I think my clients and other friends who are direct employees are all pretty well prepared for any shutdown that isn’t completely unprecedented in length.

  37. Chatterby*

    If you’ve been furloughed, are you eligible to apply for unemployment for the duration? Since unemployment is state-run, not federal, I imagine their offices are still open.
    Two years ago, my (non-government, private sector) workplace furloughed all employees for a week and we were able to apply for and receive unemployment for that week. I don’t know what the rules are for federal employees, though.

    1. Natalie*

      It’s going to vary by state since they each set their own eligibility requirements. In my state, your first week of unemployment is unpaid, so if the shutdown is resolved in the next few days none of the furloughed workers could collect unemployment.

    2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      It’ll vary by state and you’ll hear a lot about the waiting week. Speaking as a state employee who worked in that area not so long ago, I worry that the waiting week could be confusing.
      You don’t have to wait a week to apply, in most states. You wait a week before you can request weekly benefits after you’re determined eligible. You can apply as soon as you are laid off, and should. It can take several weeks to be determined eligible.
      So it’s best to apply now, so that if the shutdown goes on long enough that you have eligible weeks off work, your application has been processed and you can request.
      There’s good information on the DOL site at http://www.dol.gov/general/shutdown.
      I’ve had several fed friends tell me they were given conflicting advice on this by their agencies. My best advice is to call the state UI office. They’ll know.
      If you receive UI and then have back pay paid, you’ll need to reimburse the state for any UI payments, but simply applying to the program won’t trigger anything. Only receiving payments will.

  38. Tex*

    Question – I have jury summons for a federal district court coming up. Any idea if that part of the government shuts down? I can’t get specific details if it’s on or off until 2 days before the summons.

    Just wondering for planning purposes.

      1. KB*

        I know the DOJ in my state are still up and running. My relative was told to show up for work, however they are not being paid.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I found an announcement on the MD District Court site that they have funds to keep operating through 2/9/18, but, depending on the case, some of the parties might be affected by the shutdown. Link to follow in a response.

  39. Anon for this*

    I just want to say that I appreciate everyone here understanding that it is a hardship for many to miss a paycheck. We are in a position now that my student loans are paid off that we could lose income for several months and still survive. During the last shutdown, though, I was worried how I’d pay my mortgage and my student loan if we missed even one paycheck. I posted about that on a different website and was totally beat up for being irresponsible and not having a 6 month emergency fund saved up. It’s great to see more compassionate people on here that recognize that just because they may be comfortably well off, it doesn’t mean everyone is. Also, that it is not some great moral failing to live paycheck to paycheck.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I’m sorry that happened to you, and I honestly find it totally absurd. Yes, everyone who can should have a good savings cushion — but that’s everyone who can and that encompasses… well, not nearly as many people as those bootstraps gurus seem to think.

    2. Laura H*

      Honestly. Life happens and sometimes that whole savings thing falls to the back burner or off the proverbial stove completely. My bank offers a feature that makes small transfers from a checking to a savings account, and I use it. It’s not ideal, but it does help. And it’s not like $30 gone in one fell swoop, it’s prolly that much over the course of two weeks. You use the tools you have, right?

      Good luck. Hopefully this fiasco doesn’t last too long.

    3. sap*

      “you should have a 6 month emergency fund” is usually a really dumb piece of advice, financially, for dealing with student loans, depending on their size/whether they’re at the grad or undergrad rate. If I kept enough money to pay all of my student loans for 6 months just hanging out in the bank instead of throwing it AT my student loans (6-figure grad school stuff) when I have extra, I would waste like 5 figures in interest every 6 months I held on to that money.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yep. Savings accounts pay next to nothing in interest while debt charges a lot. It’s not bad to have a bit of a cushion even when you’re trapped in debt hell, but six months’ worth costs much more than it’s worth.

        1. sap*

          Yeah, it’s one thing to make sure you can feed and house yourself in an emergency, it’s another thing to make sure you can keep paying a high interest creditor who (especially if it’s the feds) will almost guaranteed give you a grace period. That’s “do I want to DEFINITELY pay extra interest on six months’ payment now or MAYBE pay extra interest on that same amount of money if something goes wrong?” Easy choice.

      2. Anon4This*

        In 25 years of working I have never had a lot of savings. Six months of savings would be $20,000!! I like the point made above that savings accounts aren’t paying much right now and putting your money in a money market or in the stock market could cause you to lose some. Even bonds charge if you cash them out early.

  40. John Rohan*

    Contractor here. Generally, contractors continue working, because the contracts have already been paid out. They are unaffected.

    1. Xay*

      This was not true in 2013. I was a federal contractor then and unless your project was deemed essential, we were sent home. Pay depended on the contract company – some continued to pay staff while small business contractors like my employer at the time had employees take PTO or LWOP. Some contractors temporarily laid off staff and told them to file for unemployment.

      Related: As I work in a field that is highly dependent on federal funding, my essential interview question is “How did your company handle the 2013 shutdown?”

    2. periwinkle*

      As noted, it depends on the contract. I had just completed an assignment before the 2013 shutdown and was about to start a new one. Until the shutdown ended, my only income was a tiny amount of billing based on some clean-up work from the first contract. No back pay for our team.

      Which is why I took a permanent job in the private sector. We have U.S. government contracts but that’s just one part of our business and I’m nowhere near that division.

      Good wishes to our fed and contractor friends, hoping this is resolved quickly…

    3. The Person from the Resume*

      It really depends on how much oversight the contractors need. If the government oversight is furloughed because they’re non-essential, many contractors cannot continue to work even if they are funded by last year’s money. It’s also tricky because the contract may be able to work for a short time without oversight until the government needs to make a decision, but they may have to stop now just because you don’t know when the shutdown ends and the government person cannot come back off furlough to shut the contract down.

    4. Cat Chaser*

      I’m a contractor and so is my DH. Our contracts have “place of performance” clauses. Since those places of performance are shutdown government spaces, we don’t work even though there is money on our contracts.

    5. ContractORama*

      I assume you mean in your experience at your specific site/agency.

      Because no – first of all there are several different types of contracts that affect whether or not a contractor continues. Then there are specifications like worksite and review of product. Also, where the contract funding comes from is an issue.

      I’m a contractor who works in a federal building- I’m only essential if a very narrow set of events is taking place during the furlough. If we were currently in the last stages of building a special teapot I might be essential, but we would have as few FTEs on at one time as possible. But our only teapot in the area right now is a early stages routine teapot that doesn’t need constant oversight. I was sent home today. I don’t have an ‘alternate work site’ – my company is in another state. I highly doubt I will be paid, even if my company does get paid.

    6. Red*

      CO here. Unfortunately this is not a correct assertion in many cases. It depends entirely on a) the contract structure, and b) the funding source. Many many contracts ARE affected by shutdowns.

  41. Leah*

    I’m currently going through an FBI background check before I can start a (super low level) federal position. It’s been taking a really long time and I’m worried this is just going to prolong my situation. Do you think the background check people will still be working? Are they an essential service?

    1. Tabby Baltimore*

      My best guess here is that if the investigators are a contracted work force, as opposed to a government civilian work force, then it is almost certain (I say *almost* b/c I don’t work for the FBI) they will continue working, since the government honors its industry contracts, and in all likelihood has already paid for their services, more or less.

    2. Eeny Meeny Miney Moe*

      It depends on who is doing the investigation. Frequently they are done by contractors, so it may well be a toss-up (some of us contractors are being paid to continue work, some are paid on a shorter time scale or on a different funding vehicle).

  42. Lady Phoenix*

    Not a worker, but I can understand the trying times:
    1) Reduce TV/Radio/Social Media to bare minimal. Ask your families and friends to not talk to you or show you posts about the shutdown or politics.
    2) Try to alleviate the stress as best as you can with distractions: books, films, TV shows not linked to news networks, video/move stream services like Netflix or Hulu, exercise, sewing… just try to keep yourself distracted
    3) Consider your budget when it comes to food and leisure. You may have to sacrifice leisure, and you may have to find recipes that can keep your household fed for a long time.
    4) Keep an eye on bills, rent, and deadlines. If you ask and get it in writing, you might be able to extend those
    5) Look for companies giving discounts for you guys. It will provide extra help

    Good lick everyone! :(

  43. Enough*

    The Senate voting to break filibuster so they can vote on the continuing funding resolution so the shutdown should be over today.

    1. Natalie*

      I just saw that! Although it’s only a temporary extension (three weeks, I think) so theoretically this could just be kicking the can down the road if they can’t come to a longer term agreement in that time frame.

  44. Nervous Accountant*

    Can we ask personal questions too? Like how does this affect people traveling in to the US?

    1. i like to google*

      found this in an article –

      > What is happening to air travel?
      Front-line staff in international and domestic aviation – air-traffic control, Customs & Border Protection and airport security in the US – are classed as essential workers and therefore will continue to report for duty and be paid as normal.

      According to the Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration will deploy around 24,000 air-traffic control staff, as normal. Accident investigators will stay on duty.

      The Transportation Security Administration, which provides airport security, has about 58,000 workers, of whom 90 per cent are classed as essential. The numbers are very similar at Customs & Border Protection. But even if the public-facing staff continue to be gainfully employed, the work of back-up staff is not protected in the same way. So a technical failure that affected airport processing could cause problems for travellers.

      > Will I be able to get permission to visit the US?
      That depends. The ESTA system for online travel authorisation, as used by most British holidaymakers and business visitors, will continue to function as normal; it is self-financing.

      But anyone applying for a US visa whether for work or as a student, or because they have other issues, such as a criminal record, could find the process temporarily stops until US government funding can be agreed.

      1. Nervous Accountant*

        Okay so based on this it would affect visitors, not US citizens/residents who were traveling abroad and going home.


      2. Lindsay J*

        As someone who works in the aviation industry, and who was traveling back to the US from an international destination this past weekend, this information all accurately reflects my experience.

    2. Lindsay J*

      I know the shutdown is over for now, but I guess I can reply in case anyone is looking for similar information in the future.

      As an American citizen traveling back into the US this weekend (early Sunday morning) on US passports it did not affect us at all.

      We were returning from New Zealand and clearing through customs at LAX was as routine as could be.
      It’s possible that the customs guy wasn’t as into his job as he would have been otherwise. (I was literally asked one question. “What was the purpose of your trip to New Zealand? Me: “Pleasure”, and that was the entirety of the interaction.) but I don’t know that that would have been the case under normal circumstances.

      We chatted a little bit with one of the TSA agents while waiting in line, and he said that while it was a bummer to not be being paid that he signed up in order to serve and that the morale for them wasn’t too bad because they felt they were serving their country and that they would ultimately get paid for their work.

      We were worried about possible extensive delays re-clearing into the US or getting back through security to make our connecting flight since we both had to be at work Monday morning, but there were absolutely zero problems on that end.

      I’m not sure whether that would be the case for land crossings or for non-US citizens. But the agencies at the airport were all adequately staffed and functioning without issues.

  45. Anon now*

    I’m an institutional contractor and this has been a confusing mess. I still don’t know whether I’m furloughed or not. Since I worked my four hours for today I’ve been told to stop working until I receive guidance from the company who employs me about whether or not I’m allowed to work. My federal employee boss told me to prepare materials to be able to work without access to my .gov email or files stored on the server if the shutdown continues. This is because I might hear from the company who employs me that it’s okay for me to work, but not to access any government-issued equipment or servers. We also haven’t received any guidance about whether or not we’ll be paid regardless if we’re working or not. It’s so frustrating not to know anything.

  46. Guacamole Bob*

    My spouse was a federal employee for a while before switching to the private sector. Our kids are in a federal affiliate daycare center, so their center is closing early today (or at least was planning to – we’ll see what happens with the vote) and will remain closed, but we both still have to work. The center is part of a chain, so they’re doing their best to move kids and staff to other centers starting tomorrow for the duration of the shutdown. I’ve talked to other parents who work for agencies other than the one where the daycare is who are essential or whose agencies are funded differently who still have to work, too.

    The best part? If they can’t accommodate our kids elsewhere, we still pay full tuition and then have to figure out how to find care for our kids.

    We’re lucky that we’re financially stable at this point and it’s just a big hassle, not anything life-altering. I really feel for all the low-wage cafeteria and cleaning and other staff who take a real hit during something like this.

  47. anon for specifics*

    Does anyone know how grant applications work during a government shutdown? I have one due in two weeks to NSF and all the relevant websites are down, which I did not realize would be the case. Luckily I have the PAPPG and the program solicitation pdfs saved to my computer, but I won’t be able to look up last minute details. I’ve had less time to work on this grant than I wanted as it is, so I’d actually be grateful if the deadline got extended. Who knows if/when that info will be concrete, so I’m acting like nothing has changed for now. Most of all I hope that the shutdown and new budget don’t impact the grant cycle. Is there a risk of it getting canceled or just delayed?

    I’m so sorry to anyone whose paycheck is affected by the shutdown. I know this problem is a minor annoyance in comparison.

    1. fposte*

      In 2013, NSF and IMLS revised due dates for proposal calls near the shutdown. However, if the shutdown ends before tomorrow, that might not be long enough for them to do so.

    2. Ophelia*

      If there is no written guidance from the AO, then the due dates stay as written, but it just might languish in “submitted application” land with no decision, from what I understand. (I work in new business for a gov’t contractor, and in the 2013 shutdown, we just finished up outstanding work, but no new RFPs were issued until the shutdown ended.)

  48. Tabby Baltimore*

    I signed my furlough letter, worked my four hours, then went home. On the way home, did some errands. W/in 10 min of getting home (~30 min. ago), my father-in-law calls me from several states away to let me know I need to put my office clothes back on (he assumed I was lounging around, since he didn’t really know about how the process actually worked) because I was going back to work. I looked at the Washington Post site, and it indicates the impasse is about to be broken. With any luck, we’ll all be back at work tomorrow or Wednesday. I am sorry this day has been so confusing for everyone; you have my sympathy.

  49. Anon for This*

    So my brother and sister-in-law essentially went from two incomes to none. My SIL is USAF and my brother works for the National Weather Service. They’re already looking at having to sell a car and the USAA loan option if it comes to that.

  50. mirror*

    My husband is an air traffic controller, so it’s business as usual for him. Although he is grumpy because he is “essential,” so he must work without pay, instead of getting to stay home like the “non-essentials.” And just because he is “essential,” doesn’t mean backpay is a given for him. This all makes him grumpy because if he is so “essential,” backpay should be a given, and for “non-essentials” it should not be a given. But that’s the rule & responsibility he must accept when working such a job.

    Also I’m 9 months pregnant, so the timing is extra tricky for us. He says this shouldn’t affect his paid time off that’s coming up in a couple weeks…

  51. SarahKay*

    I’m a UK person so no useful advice, I’m afraid, just best wishes and sympathy to everyone affected. Keeping my fingers crossed for you all.

  52. OlympiasEpiriot*

    I’m just wishing all of you well. A cousin is a (very good) tour guide and a few of their spots they take tourists to in this city (yes, there are non-parks Parks sites) are under the Parks Service. They’re out the money for as long as that’s shut.

    1. Headachey*

      No, not yet – but soon! The Senate voted to end the shutdown, but it still needs final Senate approval and a House vote.

  53. Cucumberzucchini*

    My company provides “marketing” services for a Government agency. It’s about a 18% of my company’s monthly income. This shutdown means we have to stop our work and this is the second time we’ve had this happen. We haven’t got clear communication if this means we’re not getting paid yet. Last time we had a huge decrease is our monthly retainer which was big hit to our cash-flow for like 4 months. So hoping this gets cleared up quickly.

  54. Cols*

    So I’m a federal employee; my agency has carryover funds and we haven’t closed down. We didn’t during the 2013 shutdown either (which turned out to be kind of a bummer when everyone who had been furloughed got back pay, but that’s just petty of me).
    My husband is a defense contractor. He’s out of work with no hope of back-pay when the government shuts down.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      I confess that I would have loved time off of work where no one else was working either so I wouldn’t feel like my vacation just made me fall further behind. And if we were going to go through all the effort (because a shutdown creates work), I wanted it to be for long enough to be worthwhile like at least several weeks.

      I recognize that this selfish desire is not good for the government or most government employees as a whole. All kind of people where I live were off last week due to winter weather and since I work from home I wasn’t off. I feel jealous when that happens. I know this is not “adult” but it is human.

  55. Martha Heil*

    Here’s an unusual way the shutdown has impact: my kid’s daycare, which is housed in a federal facility, is closed. It’s run by a corporation, so the corporation is not affected, but the physical location is unavailable. the good news is that the corporation has multiple franchises in or area, so they were able to transfer my daughter’s registration over temporarily to the new location. At least one of the daycare staff is temporarily assigned to the other location too. Most of the parents of kids at the daycare are federal employees so they just keep their kids at home; my husband and I work for nonprofits so we still have to work this week.

  56. TiffIf*

    My company has government contracts but none that affect my job or my division really, so I’m not sure how the shutdown has affected our business. However I did hear on the radio this morning that if the shutdown goes longer or if the proposed CR expires in 3 weeks without a viable budget or another CR and there’s another shutdown then it can massively disrupt tax season. Apparently a lot of the IRS workers who would process returns etc are considered non-essential.
    I filed my federal tax return on Saturday…

  57. DoD scientist*

    I’m an Army scientist that got furloughed today. I had to go in to sign the papers and put out of office responses on email/phone. Luckily, our postdocs and most of our technicians are contractors whose money has already been obligated and so they can keep the experiments running. Administratively, they act like we will never be back to work again, even though we all know that probably isn’t the case. I am spending today looking for other jobs, because I was thrilled to not have to work today, even though I won’t be paid. Not a good sign for my job satisfaction.

  58. At least I'm not in DC*

    Is anyone at State/know what the embassies are doing?

    Our marine guards are still working, obviously; and some specific projects have a few weeks of funding – but as of Sunday night most of the embassy staff hadn’t heard what they were doing in the morning yet…

  59. LiptonTeaForMe*

    This time around I am listed as essential, but I am a slave as when we get paid is anyone’s guess. If Congress is really not taking their paychecks, they should donate them to all the federal employees who are now trying to meet their bills. If this goes on as long as the last one, it will ruin my credit with late payments. I have worked hard to have decent credit!

  60. LizM*

    I don’t think this one will be as long as the 2013 shutdown, but in 2013, our deputy division chief (so my boss’s #2) personally called each of us every few days just to check in and see how we were doing. She didn’t always have any news, but I know many of us really appreciated the effort to keep in touch and acknowledge the impact this was having on us on a personal level.

    For all feds, the advice I got this morning was good. Find a project and don’t just sit around and watch the news. This shutdown isn’t as bad as the 2013 one in terms of the rhetoric around federal employees, but it can be really hard to not take the news personally. I found myself yelling at NPR this morning because I felt like they were downplaying the impact of the government shutting down. That was my sign that I needed to turn off the news and go find something to do.

    1. Frankie Bergstein*

      I think writing to NPR and asking them to make their coverage better reflect the reality of the situation for everyone is a great idea! That can be constructive — your experience and story are important and deserve to be told, I think.

  61. StubbornWombat*

    This isn’t as much as some are affected, but I am supposed to fly down for an interview for a really amazing job tomorrow, and part of it was meeting USDA folks – now the person I’m interviewing with isn’t sure if they’ll make it. I really hope it doesn’t affect my job application (which is for a state position, not federal) but it’s pretty crummy timing for a job interview that’s been in the works for months and for a job I want so bad it burns.

    I’m also really frustrated that this whole show is over DACA, as I used to work in immigration law as a clerk/translator in undergrad, and I filed a lot of paperwork for DACA clients. It’s utter hog manure that these people are being punished for something they had no say over, when they’ve worked so hard.

  62. Overeducated*

    That was anticlimactic. Just a wasted day and an event tomorrow up in the air. Glad it didn’t go on weeks, but were we just practicing for Feb. 9? We’ll see…,

  63. Lindsay J*

    Happy for now.

    A close friend’s job is closely related to/reliant on government spending. She was freaking out because they’re not government employees or contractors, but since they’re tied together if the government shut down for an extended period she would likely be furloughed and not receive any back-pay. As she’s the primary provider for the family and they have two young kids it could have been really bad for them. I know she is now looking for a position not so tied to the government in the future, though – having this happen twice in her career so far has taken away any feeling of stability they might have had.

    My job is somewhat reliant on DoD contracts, but I wasn’t concerned about a short shutdown, though I imagine an extended one could have adverse effects for us and it’s a little disappointing my employer didn’t address this (the reality or our fears) in any way. It would be nice to know, “hey, our government contracts are all paid through XX day and month so we will continue providing service and getting paid until then,” or “hey, I know a lot of our money comes from government contracts, but a lot also doesn’t, so even if we experience issues with the government side we’ll be fine,” or “hey, this could be a lean month. Tighten up on department spending and be prepared for some tough times if this is extended.” Something.

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