the government shutdown: an open thread for people being furloughed

With the government shutdown nearing two weeks and hundreds of thousands of government employees and contractors furloughed — and currently not getting paid — here’s an open thread for people who are affected.

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.

{ 600 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Please, no comments about how people should have saved more. This is not the time or place for that, and those comments are often rooted in ignorance about the realities of people’s lives.

    1. Phoenix Programmer*

      Oof! I can’t believe that even came up! I am 31 and my husband and I are only just now able to start saving. We are saving $150 a month and some months life happens – like unexpected medical bills – and we can’t even save that. It will be a good 8 months at that rate before we will even have 2 months living expenses saved.

      Before that it was paycheck to paycheck.

      1. Loux*

        Canadian public servant here… super grateful this can’t really happen to us because at the moment I am living paycheck to paycheck. I would be flush out of money in a couple of weeks.

        1. Vancouver*

          I work in an organization that does a lot of work with both the Canadian and American governments, and I have to agree that I’ve heard a lot of this from my colleagues on the Canadian government side. Furloughing staff seems so incredibly disruptive to everyones’ lives. If you suspend staff, at least they know the end date; if you fire or lay off staff, they can look for another job. To all our American colleagues, I hope this gets resolved as soon as humanly possible and you can all get back to work.

          1. Haligolightly*

            Ah yes, but us Canadian federal public servants have Phoenix to contend with. A sizable majority of us play the “paycheque lottery” every two weeks, wondering whether we’ll get paid correctly (or at all). I’m waiting on several thousands of dollars from 2016, which is insignificant compared to the tens of thousands of dollars owed (or overpaid) to others.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      And even when you have saved plenty, this still just SUCKS. My employer is fully funded. My husband’s is not. We don’t know if he’s getting back pay, and he hates just puttering around the house. If I were home I could at least hang out with him.

      It’s not all about money.

      1. Flower*

        This. I’m not a federal employee, but my partner is and he’s furloughed. We actually do have plenty saved to last a while (but if there’s no backpay, we’ll definitely lose a good chuck of our savings pools towards a house and our wedding later this year). At the same time, the fact that we certainly have enough money to carry us through doesn’t take away how much it sucks for him to be stuck without anything to do and limited social interaction (and again, it might set us back on some of our goals we’re saving towards).

        1. Flower*

          *noting that we’re obviously in a fortunate position. It still sucks for us, but not in the same way or to the same degree as those who are seeing the possibility of not being able to pay their bills.

          1. Random Thought*

            I know what you mean, exactly. I work in the private sector and am unaffected, but my husband is furloughed. We are privileged to be able to live on just my income, but it’s frustrating to put our savings goals on hold. More importantly, my husband is going stir crazy at home all day and becoming increasingly anxious about the amount of work piling up on his desk. He works in HR doing hiring, so he also feels really bad for all of his candidates who are totally in limbo.

      2. sstabeler*

        or if nothing else, it’s not really reasonable to expect someone to keep savings against the prospect of your employer refusing to pay you. Not to mention that since back pay isn’t guaranteed- and considering how much Trump has been denigrating the furloughed staff and how spiteful he can be I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if he vetoed any resolution granting the furloughed staff back pay (though I hope I’m wrong)-there’s always the possibility that you can’t save up enough during the time you’re actually paid to see you through shutdowns.

        That, and frankly, I think it’s becoming clear that there aren’t sufficient consequences for politicians when there’s a shutdown, since they seem to be occurring for more and more petty reasons. I’m honestly tempted to suggest that a shutdown should trigger- with the necessary funds being automatically appropriated- both a Presidential Election and an election for EVERY SINGLE Representative and Senator. (specifically the winner of said election would serve out the remainder of the original term. The idea basically is that if you cause a shutdown, you WILL need to face the voters with it fresh in their minds- or, in theory, still ongoing- to encourage politicians to be reasonable)

        1. Erin*

          “or if nothing else, it’s not really reasonable to expect someone to keep savings against the prospect of your employer refusing to pay you. ”

          Bingo. And the government knows they have a captive workforce because of the pensions. If the company I work for didn’t pay me, I would go find another job. Because other than liking my co-workers, what am I really losing? But as a government employee, you lose a LOT of future income if you walk away.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            And keeping a few months of pay around in your checking account isn’t great monetary policy. I have investments I can cash in, but that’s really not reasonable.

        2. Angry citizen*

          Yes there NEED to be monetary consequences for the people who are refusing to work together who made this shut down happen. Not only are these politicians still getting paid, they’re getting paid really, REALLY well. They need to do something to forgive the debts of those who have their pay taken, so the bills these furloughed employees can’t pay are paid by the very people who put them into this situation. I don’t care which side of the political spectrum you are on – they were ALL elected to be diplomatic problem solvers. They’re not doing their job, so now these furloughed employees cannot do theirs? That’s stupid, wrong and ridiculous.

    3. Cassie Rice*

      My husband is furlough as well and we live paycheck to paycheck
      My FPL is due for disconnection tomorrow
      They are closed today so
      Any ideas
      I need $225 to keep on

    4. just my thoughts*

      Hi, non-government employee, here. I’m late to the party but I wanted to express my solidarity and sympathy to all those affected by the shutdown. For lack of more eloquent words, it’s just plain unfair.

      There’s one thing I’d like to refute on behalf of gov employees – I’ve seen this idea circulating that back paid government employees don’t deserve sympathy because “they knew what they signed up for” and “they knew this could happen” and that sort of thing. I suppose on some level it’s technically true that they knew of the possibility, but those kind of statements take humanity and loads of logic out of the situation. To anyone here who believes that “they signed up for this,” let’s pause and rethink, shall we? The main thing that comes to my mind is that long shutdowns like this one are rare… In fact, we broke the record for the longest on 1/12. The previous longest shutdown was upwards of 20 years ago (95/96). While I’m sure any shutdown comes with more than it’s fair share of stress and fear, this time I’m sure feels a little more stressful than the shutdown in January 2018 which lasted just 3 days. But 3.5 weeks and counting? Less manageable. No one I know signed up for that. If you hear anyone say that government employees did sign up for that, let’s remind them. Let’s be kind. <3

    5. TheFedWife*

      I see it’s been a while since anyone posted to this thread but I just want to say how cathartic it was for me to read through these posts. I deeply appreciate every single person who took the time to express their sympathies. I’m unemployed due to chronic health issues so we depend on my husband’s income. He’s required to work full-time, not getting paid, can’t get a 2nd job, and ineligible for unemployment. It’s hard to stomach how many responses to people affected by the shutdown range from apathetic to down right cruel. Scrolling through post after post after post of encouragement and empathy without being insulted or ranted at/about has me in tears! Thank you all so much. It’s not fun or easy but knowing we have support across the country really does help make things a little easier.

  2. Liet-Kinda*

    I’m guiltily thankful and lucky that I am not furloughed and continue to get paid as normal, but I’m deeply sympathetic to those who are affected and hope it doesn’t drag on much longer. It was fun for my affected friends and contacts for a few days, because hey, skiing, but at this point, it’s seriously stressing people’s finances.

    1. sunshyne84*

      Yea fortunately my agency is fee-based. I had to work through one with a different agency, but I was really stingy with money at the time and didn’t have any issues, this time I’d be in trouble.

      1. AnonforToday*

        Last time I was a DC employee and deemed essential but not paid. I was just out of school and working a very low paid job. That was awful, especially because we had just had the Navy Yard shooting and the whole city felt in edge. My at the time boyfriend (now spouse) worked in the building and knew one of the people who was killed. The whole time was awful. The museums shut right away then and I did my best to help direct tourists to the (not free) stuff that was still open.

        This time I have a new job and we are still going on a budget surplus from our fee collection. But my city is being trashed and paralyzed. I have a friend who was thinking of visiting but with all the museums closed, she can’t plan her trip anymore.

        I am one of the lucky ones, but it still sucks. If this goes in our ability to stay open won’t last and I will be furloughed.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I had the same experience during the 2013 shutdown. I came into work for two weeks, and backpay didn’t come in for months (at the time, we were all legit concerned that there would be no backpay). I was terrified about what would happen if the shutdown lasted more than a month because there was no way I would be able to make rent. It was one of the most stressful and exhausting situations.

          1. De Minimis*

            I remember I had to be late with rent during the 2013 shutdown. Thankfully my landlord was understanding.

            1. AnonforToday*

              Last time my landlord was understanding because a good 30% of my building was feds. They couldn’t evict a third of tenants. But there is no guarantee.

        2. your favorite person*

          I had no idea the museums closed too! Shutdowns affect so many things, it’s hard to fathom.

          1. AnonforToday*

            They kept them open as long as they could, but they all closed yesterday. National parks are closing too because horrible people were trashing them.

            1. EMW*

              The presidential libraries closed the first day of the shutdown as well. Well, at least the Jimmy Carter one did.

              1. anon rn*

                Yup all but the ones run by their foundations (GWB and one other, I think). I work at a foundation that supports one of the presidential libraries and I feel for my fed colleagues and our contract workers. Shutdowns are no good!

      2. HerBerT*

        Hi, Sunshyne84! My agency is also fee-based… which is great since my husband’s is not. Fortunately, his agency did get appropriations already. So many of our neighbors are home… worrying. And, as another commenter noted, DC is looking rough, at least in the parks and monuments areas… so sad.

    2. Liet-Kinda*

      Accidentally hit return!

      To amplify some of the points in Katie the Fed’s linked post: contrary to perceptions, the lazy, unproductive federal employee is largely a myth. I have been priveleged to work, in three agencies, for and with people who were not just competent and committed, but who also took deeply seriously the notion of serving their country. It’s outrageous that they are being treated in this fashion and insulted and dismissed by the single person responsible to boot. Yes, it’s sad that idiots are littering in national parks. It’s a table-flipping outrage that people are worrying how to pay their mortgage because we can’t fund the government. This needs to stop.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Not that we can’t fund the government but rather that some people are willing to play hardball to the point of making demands for funding that doesn’t have enough support to get it done on its own.

      2. AnonforToday*

        I have been recruited in the past to at least double my salary. I like my job a lot so I haven’t left (my immediate bosses are terrific) plus the job offers some degree of work life balance (I typically work at least 50 hours a week (I am exempt so no OT)) but not 60, and my hours can be flexible.

        But being treated as a pawn or punching bad is demoralizing. I provide a high demand service to the public that helps them run their businesses. I go out of my way to help the average consumer navigate tricky forms and processes. I am not lazy or entitled.

        1. Nat*

          Oh AnonforToday – it just hit me in the gut when you talked about being a pawn. I don’t have an answer. The collective “you” IS being used as a political pawn. We public university employees sometimes get into that mess, too. I hope you can get back to your job soon!

        2. Susana*

          And I know I am not alone in saying thank you – and I am really sorry you are being treated this way. Many government employees have helped me and my family – I particularly remember the woman from Social Security who was willing to wait while my dad ran upstairs to find some document he needed to get something fixed with his benefits. She was so patient and kind.

        3. Anamana*

          I feel you, and I’m so sorry. I was a federal government lawyer for almost 10 years (in a pretty technical, high demand field). This year I became fed up with the lack of appreciation and decided to take one of those better paying, private sector jobs. While I’m glad to be unaffected by this shutdown (I weathered the three previous ones), I have mixed feelings about it – I do miss my former (exceptionally smart, service-oriented) colleagues.

        4. Angry citizen*

          And this false perception is what makes me crazy. How dare people call you lazy? What are people basing this on?! With the way the job market is now, if you were lazy, you’d get fired, and replaced.

      3. Lulu*

        I have never been a Federal employee, but have worked for my city, and the same thing holds. Everyone I encountered there worked hard, appreciated their jobs, was competent (at the very least), and was proud of what they did. It was not easy to get many of the jobs there, and there was often a wide pool of qualified applicants to choose from. You can bet that the people working there deserve it, appreciate it, and worked hard to get there.

        That old trope of the lazy government worker is such bullpoopy.

        1. SignalLost*

          I knew exactly one lazy employee when I worked for my state education system (and my god she was awful). I’ve known more at all my private employers. It’s a nonsense idea that needs to be pushed back on.

          1. Jeff A.*

            I work in state government as well (five years, now) after spending 12 years working for private sector employers. This has been my experience as well: laziness and incompetence were much more prevalent in the private sector. When corporations are generating record profits, they tend not to have to look as hard at the waste generated as a by-product.

            1. KC*

              I worked in County govt for 14 years, and due to the duties of my position worked with employees in all of the departments. We all worked incredibly hard, and were so proud of our county govt.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This is my biggest peeve. Many (most?) Federal employees work tirelessly, often foregoing more money in the private sector, out of a genuine sense of public service. Telling them they’re lazy and overpaid, anyway, is inaccurate and garbage-person behavior.

        Also don’t tell them that they should have enough money or money management skills to withstand a shutdown. A significant percentage of the country lives paycheck-to-paycheck, and federal employees are no different in that regard.

        1. Proud Public Servant*

          Agreed. I was a state employee in the legislature for several years and just recently left for a lobbying firm. One time a constituent called my office and yelled at me “you white b****, you only got into government for money you gold digger” and I had to try so incredibly hard to not laugh. I made a few thousand dollars over the FPL.

          I tell me private sector friends about my job and they are honestly shocked with what I have to put up with. We are all at will employees and can be fired or let go at any time for any reason. We make an incredibly low salary. And we get screamed at by people daily for things beyond our control and we can’t hang up on them unless they are being genuinely threatening which does happen.

          1. Catleesi*

            I was at one point a staffer in a state legislature. I feel your pain at this one – people thought it was a “cool” job and never really got how emotionally exhausting it could be. I was furloughed at one point and it was such a strain financially. People have this impression that government employees are so well paid – I lived in income based housing at the time.

          2. AvidReader31*

            I hear you on the abuse. I have worked for the federal government, a state government, and a local government. The abuse that people heap on you on a daily basis is amazing, as is the mentality that you get “rich” working for the government. I typically worked more than 40 hours a week, in at-will positions (so could be fired for no reason), and was never eligible for overtime. When I broke it down, I made less than minimum wage. I worked hard and took pride in my job, but the public could just break your soul and spirit. Regardless of your politics, everyone should be angry that these people’s only responsibility is to pass a budget (if they do nothing else). Congress and the Administration are acting like children and it’s terrifying that they are allowed to run the country.

          3. Proud Public Servant*

            Yup. The state that I worked for did some… let us just say contentious things… in the past few months and I would go to work at 7:00 so I could at least get some of my actual work done before I had to answer the phones and then it was non-stop getting yelled at, death threats, and personal attacks for the next 8 hours. When work was done I just felt drained of all energy. I had people telling me that I should have my “lady bits” removed because I didn’t deserve to be a woman, that they are praying my entire family gets cancer, and just other awful things.

            We had a legislature-wide meeting with HR in the aftermath of the me too movement and a lawyer presented on the subject and everyone in the meeting just tore him to shreds. They were asking questions about what do we do if a legislator is a harassing us (which happens, and has happened to me personally), what can we do if a constituent is harassing us, etc. and he just had no answers besides “well the likelihood of that happening is slim to none.” And then the question of if our HR records could be requested by the public under the open records law. And they wonder why no one reports in the Legislature. Because we are at will employees, are options are incredibly limited and the worst thing you can do for your career is have your name in the news.

            Sorry for the rant, I just have never been on a forum where people actually understand what it is like to work in the government.

            1. Gelliebean*

              Oh no…. *good vibes to you*

              I work for a state agency also and the vitriol can be overwhelming sometimes – it seems like the population we regulate hates us because we’re too harsh, and the general population hates us because we aren’t harsh enough. The angry outliers are the ones we interact with, because no one calls if they’re happy with what’s going on. And when there’s a case of public interest, whichever low-level service rep answers the phone is personally responsible for every single thing the caller read about in the paper.

              1. Proud Public Servant*

                For real. Honestly one time a caller said thank you for taking the time to talk to me today and for your service to the state and I almost started crying.

            2. Vancouver*

              Fun fact: my entire government-adjacent organization was compared to nazis by an elected public official. In a public, televised hearing. The good news is that we can complain about this securely, as privacy laws in British Columbia protect us. The bad news is that, because we’re in a seperate organization, it doesn’t count as a workplace and they aren’t obligated to do anything about it (whereas they’d be legally obligated to respond to it if it was their employee complaining). Other fun fact: he was re-elected and became the leader of the board.

              I know this doesn’t do much for the people impacted right now, but we got through crazy-pants insults, and you can to. It might take time and discomfort, but things will get better! (Hopefully as soon as possible for you.)

        2. Jaybeetee*

          “Also don’t tell them that they should have enough money or money management skills to withstand a shutdown. A significant percentage of the country lives paycheck-to-paycheck, and federal employees are no different in that regard.”

          I hate when people say things like this – for how long should a financially stable person be able to hold? One month? Two? Six? What if you’re at the beginning of your career and still trying to establish your savings(not to mention pay student debt)? What if you’ve had an expensive month/several months/year and depleted your savings? What if you were recently unemployed before getting the fed job, or your SO is unemployed now? What if any one of a zillion factors that can affect the financial life of a middle-class person has been affecting you as well, so that even in a decent-paying job you’re stretching to cover the bills? When I see comments like that, my first thought is “Were you born with $15 000 in the bank?”

          Pardon me, I’m a fed in Not-US, and have had a financially-tight several months, so I hate this attitude that because I have a middle-class income, I should be able to financially withstand anything.

          1. AVP*

            ohmygosh yes to this! There are so many reasons people might not be able to just swing a few months without pay – especially if they still need to show up to work, there are expenses with that which makes it even harder than a layoff or a firing. It’s ridiculous to expect otherwise, and frankly many of pthe people making those comments might be surprised to find themselves facing the same issues if they were furloughed themselves.

            1. Observer*

              I’m not a Fed, so not directly affected by the shutdown (yet – we could get affected by federal funding down the road).

              But this was one of my first thoughts. When my kids were little, working without pay, even if we knew the check was coming in (which is actually not a given, here) presented a special problem because our childcare provider didn’t care about our issues. (In our case it wasn’t federal shut downs, but problems in my husband’s school.)

          2. Squid*

            The amount I typically see recommended by financial planning experts is typically a three- to six-month emergency fund, with some going higher (e.g., Suze Orman says eight months). You’re 100% right that this is not feasible for lots and lots of people, but for context, that is the kind of expectation that well-off folks are working from when they make those kinds of pronouncements.

            1. Jaybeetee*

              I get the 3-6 months thing, but even for people who have that in savings – logically, there must have been a point where they didn’t have that? When they hadn’t saved it yet? It takes time, after all. How does a person perceive that anyone who doesn’t have a nest egg is irresponsible, when at some point in their lives, they presumably didn’t have a nest egg yet?

              I probably sound more upset about this than I am, I think it’s more the implied self-righteousness and logic fail that bugs me.

              1. MsSolo*

                I rather think it’s an attitude from people who got their first ’emergency fund’ in the form of significant financial support from their parents. If your nest egg is something your parents had the privilege of saving for since before you were born, when you see people without that back up, you assume they squandered theirs. Conceiving of the idea they never had one is… hard, for some people.

              2. Kelly O*

                Agreed exactly.

                If you follow Dave Ramsey, he suggests a minimum emergency fund first ($1000, just in case) and then pay off the debt first. Saving months of expenses is his baby step 3. Depending on your income and debt, using the fastest “gazelle” possible, it can take months or years to work through the debt.

                The point being, it takes time to save, and when life happens (or, as my boss likes to say when Murphy shows up) it takes chunks out of your work. That’s without shutdowns or unexpected work changes.

                We are definitely paycheck to paycheck. This is one reason I have never applied for a federal job. The risk is more than I’m willing to take.

            2. Liet-Kinda*

              I keep an emergency fund (a more modest one than that) for personal emergencies – health crisis, accident, house repairs. That is, thankfully, feasible for me. I do not consider manufactured political standoffs attributable largely to dishonesty and stubbornness fit uses of that fund.

          3. Nea*

            Not to mention that there were three shutdowns in 2018. It’s no good for pundits to sniffily insist that we save for a shutdown and then complain that there are no savings left when it happens for the third time.

          4. Anne Elliot*

            This surprised me and, upon consideration, it should not have. I think I had this perception of “Federal workers” as all being D.C.-based, suit-wearing, middle managers who earn good salaries. But the Federal government also includes a lot of people who are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Two articles I saw reinforced this for me: One dealt with the impact on enlisted coast guard members, who earn as little as $20,000 a year (excluding various additional allowances). Even factoring in housing allowance, dependent allowance, etc., many of them are wondering how they will feed their families. Another article dealt with contracted maintenance (janitorial) personnel. When the government closed, they were put out of work as well and, as contract personnel, they won’t get that money back even if back pay is authorized for Federal workers. And, earning what custodians usually earn, they are very hard-pressed buy the shutdown. For a lot of people who barely make their bills on a good week, to expect them to have a three month cushion is completely unrealistic. And while many, though not all of them, may have access to state unemployment benefits if they choose to apply, this just shifts the costs of maintaining them from the Federal government, which was receiving services in exchange for the money spent on salaries, to the States, which receive nothing for extended unemployment benefits to this new class of people who will need them. The whole situation sucks and our fearless leaders should be ashamed of themselves.

            1. Nerdling*

              I highly recommend taking a look at the General Schedule (available at, IIRC). For every person earning in the GS-14 level, there are probably 100 earning at the opposite end of the scale. And federal employees are all around the world and all across the country – all air traffic controllers are currently working without pay, as are federal law enforcement agencies. A shutdown has a much broader impact than most folks realize.

            2. Batman*

              @Anne Elliiot- the other thing to keep in mind is that many of the federal workers in DC are not at the management level yet. There are plenty of entry-level workers plus you still have a lot of the low-paid jobs that you’d have elsewhere and that are largely done by contractors, e.g. janitorial services, food service, etc.
              And housing in DC is very expensive, so even someone who seems highly paid compared to someone in, say, rural Georgia, isn’t necessarily highly paid in DC.

              1. No Green No Haze*

                A significant number of federal employees commute long distances from more affordable neighborhoods in Virginia — like 2 hour highway drive commutes — because DC housing is so high. It got much, much worse after 9/11 when the Department of Homeland Security was formed. Housing in the nearer suburbs is astonishingly expensive, too. You’ve gotta go far out.

            3. TardyTardis*

              There was a humorous blog suggesting that Coast Guard personnel ‘recycle’ seized drugs, but I bet a few people don’t think it’s that funny any more.

          5. wittyrepartee*

            It’s the same when people complain about “having kids when you can’t afford them”. Like, yes- attempt to not have children when you’re totally destitute, but does someone need to be independently wealthy to have children? Be able to handle the death of a spouse without needing any public assistance for any time?

        3. HerBerT*

          Yes, the point is not whether we have the money to weather a shutdown… it’s that we should get paid on time (just ask Dept of Labor!)…. (As I noted above, I work at a fee-funded agency so am not affected financially.)

        4. Marillenbaum*

          Agreed. I just started at my agency in July–my first job since grad school. I spent money I’d saved from my job before grad school to help with being a full-time student, and I’d just begun saving again once I was working. But it’s serious bullshirt that I am supposed to have “indefinite amount” of savings at the ready because That Person chooses throw a fit.

          Also, my current job? Learning a foreign language to go overseas. All my instructors are contractors who won’t get back pay. Each and every one of them gave us their personal contact info before the shutdown to keep up with our studies so we can be effective.

          1. Amethystmoon*

            I agree. I have what most would call a good private sector job, yet I’m single, so I have to pay all of my bills myself. The rent goes up by $40 every year, and my hourly rate hasn’t gone up enough to justify it. I turned in my Comcast box the other year, so I’m only paying for the least costly internet and can cancel Netflix any month if I have to. I eat a lot of beans, brown rice, eggs, and canned tuna foods and I can say, there’s only so much of that stuff a person can eat before getting tired of it. I walk to work during the warmer months to save money on gas. Pay rates are not keeping up with inflation. There are many weeks I go paycheck to paycheck.

      5. Graciosa*

        I think the core of this is that if there are programs someone disagrees with, the perception is that the workers who support that program are necessarily unproductive (in the sense that the complainer sees the results as being of no value) and therefore concludes that the workers must be lazy. Why do we need X?!? is the rallying cry.

        It’s more an emotional conclusion than a logical one – if someone slaved away painting your garage a color you didn’t like, it’s not the same thing as sitting around eating bonbons! It also doesn’t change the fundamental point that the workers affected by a shutdown are not the right people to raise this with.

        I’m happy to see people of any persuasion engaged in (polite) policy debates with decision makers, but the only way to engage with furloughed workers is to offer sympathy and support.

    3. M.Griza*

      My spouse works for a fully funded agency so for now, we’re ok. But in past shut downs, he’s always been deemed essential and had to wait for back pay. I’m also feeling guilty/thankful that his pay is coming in as expected and deeply sympathetic because we’ve been in the other set of shoes during past shut downs and it’s tough.

      1. WinethetimeKat*

        one of the couples I care about the most in my world BOTH work for feds right now. He is/was interviewing and continues to do so, BUT I get so angry when people tell them you should have saved. No we should not let politics hold it hostage. Three shutdowns now this one both a re job hunting like mad. They are dedicated to helping the country but can’t be laid off on a whim. They will get great jobs but we as a country lose good workers every time this happens.

    4. Tigger*

      I feel you. I was home for Christmas and my boyfriend and I went to the Caps game against Buffalo. We were waiting on the metro platform at 10pm when everyone’s cell phones started going off with the notifications that the government went into shut down. A few people started to tear up, one guy started cussing and the young couple standing next to us started talking about trying to return her new engagement ring to pay rent. I feel so bad for everyone not being paid. This is going to affect them for years to come if this goes on any longer.

  3. animaniactoo*

    I will probably not comment much because I am about as far on the outside of this situation as it’s possible to get. However, for those that it is relevant to, I do want to say that I’m sorry that you’re in this situation and I hope that it is resolved SOON (like 5 minutes ago) in a way that is actually beneficial to you and to the country as a whole.

    1. EMW*

      Agreed. Everyone always says “but you’ll get backpay!”

      1. Back pay is not guaranteed! It must be authorized separately by congress.
      2. Not everyone affected by the shutdown is eligible for backpay. Examples in here already for people who don’t work for the government but work with the government and won’t get any backpay.

      I’m interested to see where the lawsuit from the union goes on working without pay.

      1. De Minimis*

        There is still a class action suit out there related to the 2013 shutdown, though that one is about employees being paid late. I think it’s already be recommended for summary judgment [keeping my fingers crossed, I signed up to be part of the class nearly 5 years ago.]

      2. Liet-Kinda*

        When I was a contractor, I was always lucky that I could keep working – but your low-wage cleaners and cafeteria workers are not.

      3. pope suburban*

        Not to mention that backpay later doesn’t do a thing for bills now. I’d like to think that landlords, creditors, and stores would be understanding, but they don’t have to be. Some of them may genuinely not be able to be, if they are smaller organizations or if most of their clients are not being paid. And at this point in time, having a month’s wages or more in savings is simply not realistic for a lot of people. Backpay will only do so much if you’ve been evicted or had your vehicle repossessed or God knows what else.

      4. hermit crab*

        Yes! I have a new job now, but during the 2013 shutdown I was at a consulting firm working on federal contracts, and all my projects got stop-worked. Luckily (and generously) the company found overhead work for most of us to do, but it was very clear that it was a short-term solution. If the shutdown had lasted any longer we would have had the choice of unpaid leave or drawing down our vacation time.

        Best wishes, everyone!

      5. Observer*

        There is also another issue. If you need to pay bills today, in many cases, it doesn’t matter that you will get paid some time. You need to pay your childcare provider, the electric company, the grocery, your landlord / mortgage company etc. Yes, SOME of these entities will wait for your pay. Others either won’t or can’t.

        I’m not a Fed, but how hard is this to understand?!

        1. Bibliovore*

          Exactly. And a fair number of people will wind up putting more on their credit cards (or getting cash through those) so they can keep paying their bills and feeding their families, or even just making minimum payments on holiday charges they’d expected to pay in full but now don’t know how far those funds may have to stretch, and will have to pay crazy unreimbursed interest on that.

      6. Sour Lemon*

        I had no idea it was possible for gov employees to not get backpay! That just makes these shutdowns even more horrible. I can’t imagine going into work and being told “we’ll pay you later . . . maybe”.

        1. dunstvangeet*

          For the employees actually considered “Essential”, they are working, and will eventually get paid. However, this will only happen once the Government opens and the agency is funded.

          For the employees who are actually furloughed. They are technically put on a non-work no-pay status. So, in order for them to get back-pay for the days that the government is shut down, a separate bill has to be passed authorizing that backpay.

          I’m lucky. I’m part of the 3/4ths of the government that was funded.

    2. Frankie Bergstein*

      Do any commenters know how we can help affected folks (not just Federal employees, but the folks who – say – run food trucks and depend on Federal employees as customers for their continued revenue stream) concretely? It’s winter, which means heating bills and other basic needs.

      1. Pickles*

        I’d expect some of the food trucks could probably use some extra business if you’re hungry, or free advertising if you’re willing to share their locations via social media. Some may choose not to run at all during the shutdown, depending on cost effectiveness calculations.

        A little different, but during the last shutdown, a shocking number of people from my organizaiton ended up visiting food banks. Donations really do help!

        1. The masked sparky*

          I’m a federal court employee, so mostly ok through 1/11, but already the nice woman at the corner store has told me that she’s worried about a shutdown, as we’re in an area with a lot of federal agencies/employees.

          I don’t know what people can do to help, though. Chef Jose Andres is feeding federal employees in D.C. at his restaurants during the shut down. If there are other services helping not just feds but the other affected by the shutdown I’d be interested in hearing about it too.

      2. Frankie Bergstein*

        What I was picturing was a big gofundme for everyone who needs to pay for basic needs during this time — rent, car payment, keeping heat on, kids’ expenses. It doesn’t seem like there’s some way to get funds to affected families, however – I’ll keep reading the comments in case one pops up! Around half of Americans do not have $400 for an emergency, so I think missing a paycheck is likely important for many furloughed workers.

      1. StarHunter*

        This is something everyone can do – contact your congress rep/senators and let them know that this situation is unacceptable, needs to be resolved now, and should not repeated. If they get enough communications they do take notice. I used to work for an environmental nonprofit and the letter writing (or email or phone calls) were extremely effective. Here’s hoping you all can get back to work ASAP.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          Technically not everyone can do this – those in DC have no voting representation in Congress. Which is especially frustrating given who is most affected by this mess.

    3. Accounting IsFun*

      I also would like to express my sympathy for those contractors who do not get back pay. I also want to express sympathy to the people who work at restaurants, stores, etc. who support federal workers who have seen the number of people coming in for food et al. drop and with it, their income. They also don’t get back pay.

  4. Rusty Shackelford*

    Just want to express sympathy to everyone affected. I hope the situation changes quickly, and favorably.

  5. A*

    Just chiming in my sympathy. I work for a local branch of government. When I was flying back at Christmas, it did strike me that all the TSA agents were on duty and working hard to protect all of us for free.

    1. Juli G.*

      I feel terrible for the TSA. This is one of their busiest and craziest times of year and they have to do their jobs (many working on the actual holidays away from their families!) with no idea when the next paycheck will come. I know TSA agents don’t always get a ton of sympathy from people but that sucks.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, we flew around Christmas and I made sure to be as nice as possible to the TSA agents, while there are some jerks out there most of them are just trying to do their jobs, and doing it without pay sucks.

    2. raktajino*

      I am so floored that some jobs are considered essential enough to still be required, but not essential enough to PAY THEM. How is this legal? Is it legal just in the sense that the federal govt can opt out of regulations that affect other orgs?

    3. Loux*

      I work for the Canadian federal government. Much sympathy here as well!! It would SUCK to be working with no pay. (Well, some people who are affected by the Phoenix pay system here are… but that’s a whole separate issue!) I really hope things get back to normal soon.

      1. Vancouver*

        At least we know they’re trying with Phoenix. Failing, more often than they should, but clearly trying to get everyone back to normal. Stressful as it is, I imagine it would be worse if politicians were treating it the same way the shutdown is being treated.

        1. Haligolightly*

          I wish I had your generosity of spirit with respect to how much attention and care is being paid to Phoenix by our government.

          I don’t see politicians doing very much at all about Phoenix. We get a press statement every month with the dashboard update but the talking points and vague promises are stale and recycled.

          I’m owed thousands of dollars that I’ve essentially written off ever seeing, and I’ve got it good compared to many.

          1. Vancouver*

            I’m not sure it’s generosity of spirit so much as it is annoyance with system upgrades in general. Even if the government approved a billion dollars in new funding for fixing Pheonix tomorrow, it would still be a long time before everything is sorted out. While this never should have happened in the first place, the fact that the number of issues is shrinking every month is where I get the idea that they’re trying. A lot of mistakes were made, and still are made regularly, but if the number of mistakes keeps dropping… I am optimistic that it will eventually get back to normal.

            It may also be that I’m not paid by the government, so I haven’t been burned personally. I might be less calm about this if I was personally out a few thousand dollars. I’m sorry you’re still dealing with this – thanks for working for all of us! (Sorry to say I can’t send you a few thousand dollars, but I hope general kindness is worth at least a few cents! :) )

    4. Slippy*

      Yup, most/all of the TSA screeners are required to still work. Based on what happened in previous shutdowns, there will be an increasing percentage of the screeners calling in sick the longer the shutdown goes on. Keep in mind that the screeners are not paid very much, especially in the DC area.

  6. Anononon*

    I’m in a weird situation where I’m not personally affected, but some of my clients (I’m an attorney) are federal agencies with employees who are currently furloughed. We have close relationships with some of them, and it sucks. I also feel super bad regarding the deluge of built up work they’re going to come back to.

    1. Amber T*

      It really is amazing how many things that don’t seem obvious are affected. My company is involved with a minor lawsuit that’s being judged by the federal courts, and originally it was scheduled early next week, but it most likely will be pushed back.

      1. No Green No Haze*

        I’ve got a friend who is an immigration lawyer. Immigration courts are shut down too. Her clients must thus remain in limbo for months longer than their already insanely-long legal process demands, when the courts eventually re-open and start dealing with the backlog. Irony.

  7. Art3mis*

    My dad was all “What’s the big deal if they are between pay periods anyway?” Apparently he’s been retired too long.

    1. Garland Not Andrews*

      The basic problem is that we are not guaranteed pay for the furlough period. Bummer. I really feel for my coworkers who don’t have the resources to last the difference and am thankful that I have a good savings cushion. We do have the option to apply for unemployment for the duration.

      I do wish Congress and the POTUS would do their jobs!

  8. AnonforToday*

    The people I really really worry about are the contractors. This often includes the janitors and cafeteria staff. Furloughed feds will likely get paid (although who knows with the way things are now) but contractors will not. This includes people least able to take the financial hit.

    1. The Original K.*

      Agreed. I was reading #ShutdownStories on Twitter and it’s just awful – so many people were talking about how they couldn’t pay their bills. And over Christmas, too!


      I have a contractor friend and he said that he’s going to get paid for a while still because the Feds pay two months ahead of time. So, until the $$$ runs out THEN (God forbid), his agency will be OK.

      1. The masked sparky*

        The federal courts have funding through 1/11, and then essential personnel will still be working/getting paid. During the last shutdown the courts had much more funding saved; belts were already tightened before the shutdown.

    3. LizM*

      Agreed. We lease our office space from a property management company, and I’m pretty sure our janitorial staff has other private businesses they clean, but my last job was in a federal building and had a dedicated janitorial staff. I worked late at that job and got to know the person who cleaned my division’s space after hours. I know he has young kids and I’ve been thinking a lot about him this year.

    4. Leslie*

      I was furloughed as a contractor in October 2013 that lasted about 15 days. Pretty early on, congress voted to give backpay to the federal employees, so a lot of the pressure on them to fix it went away because “hey, they’ll get paid at the end so it’s just extra vacation days.” But you’re spot on – contractors don’t get paid! The contract I was on had people from a half-dozen or so different companies and each company handled it differently. I was very fortunate in that we kept getting paid and accrued hours that we had to work to pay back before the end of our company’s fiscal year. Others weren’t so fortunate – they had to take PTO if they wanted to keep getting paid. And usually on a government contract there was very little to start with – I was with the primary company and had only 10 days/year and that counted for both vacation & sick time! Once you’re out – no more pay for you. Plus you had to make payments to keep up your health insurance. And if you were your own business, as quite a few were, then you don’t even have PTO to fall back on.

    5. Light37*

      I was one of those contractors in 2013. My company took our accrued vacation time and used it to cover what they could of the shutdown, but that depended on how much leave you had (we had combined vacation/sick leave, so that screwed some people over) and considering it was October, a lot of people had no leave at all due to summer vacations. My mother died later that month, so I ended up taking unpaid leave to go home.

      We did eventually get our accrued leave money back- in April 2015. It took over a year and a half of our company arguing for us to get paid. I was lucky- I had some savings, I was single with no dependents or problems(right then). A lot of other people were not.

  9. LKW*

    I flew a few days ago and thanked every TSA agent for working that day.

    My friend is an FBI agent. She’s working. She’s not getting paid. Yes, please tell me how the anti-terrorism teams who were out in force on New Years are “not essential” (not saying that it’s anyone here).

  10. RJ the Newbie*

    My firm does work with the government and our contacts for a current project are affected by the shutdown. It’s awful and I hope this situation ends quickly. They are a great team, very productive and have expedited every step of the process for the project and our involvement in it.

    1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      Agreed with that. My agency has significant amounts of federal pass- through dollars and while we’re okay for now, it gets harder the longer the shutdown goes. And we’d far prefer to be working with our federal friends; we know it’s a lot harder for them than for us. They do critical work, often in ways the public never sees directly or won’t realize for years.

  11. Phoenix Programmer*

    I feel for you all. I know some are behind on rent and sadly the administration is not helping. “Negotiate to do electrical work in lieu of rent” what? Plus a lot of government civilian employees are disabled vets.

    1. The Original K.*

      I’m not affected by the shutdown but I cannot tell you how hard my eyes rolled when that letter came out. “Consult your personal attorney.” WHAT?

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          The administration released a letter telling furloughed employees to barter for rent deductions or extra time to pay. They included templates of letters to creditors asking for mercy.

          1. Diana Barry*

            I learned about this story through your post. It rendered me speechless, bloody unbelievable.

          1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

            I work for a non-US government, and my colleagues collectively cringed at that latter and winced in sympathy for everyone affected by this. It’s terrifying.

      1. AVP*

        you know, everyone has a personal attorney who has a nice office on Main St and speaks to the local constable for you when you get dinged for hanging your laundry outside on the incorrect day. No?


    2. Bekx*

      I’m part of a landlord group on facebook and they were laughing/mortified about the “do electric work in lieu of rent”. I do not want my tenant doing repairs at all, that’s my house she may or may not be messing with!

      1. Nugget_brain*

        How is the group reacting? I’ve seen some REALLY nasty and out of touch landlords on Bigger Pockets saying they’re already starting the eviction process.

        1. Bekx*

          Nasty, as expected. It’s not a very sympathetic group. To be fair though, most of them aren’t affected by this so they feel like they can say whatever they want for shock value.

          I’d be able to probably cover a few months of my mortgage if a tenant was in this situation, but this isn’t my full-time job. I’m merely renting out my former home due to a move. If the shutdown lasted for months and months, I am not sure what I’d be able to do long-term.

          1. Katie the Fed*

            It’s pretty short-sighted to start eviction on a federal employee. You know they’re going to get paid eventually (hopefully) and they generally are going to be good and reliable tenants, vs. the risk of finding a new tenant.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It is unsurprising that people who do not know the cost of bread or milk also do not understand how rent works.

  12. Daniel*

    Also adding my sympathy. I work for state government (transportation), not the federal, so I have not been affected. I work closely with FHWA, which has not been affected (I believe it is funded via the Highway Trust Fund), but I know that other DOT agencies (especially FTA and FAA) were both hammered with furloughs.

    To those affected: I’m hoping for the best of resolutions, both in terms of funding AND getting it quickly.

    1. Bibliovore*

      DOT: An NPR program recently shared some listeners’ personal shutdown stories; one of those was someone whose wallet was stolen and they were unable to get their driver’s license replaced due to the shutdown, so in the meantime they couldn’t do all the myriad things for which one needs photo ID. Far from all federal employees are in DC, and the shutdown affects much more — and far more people — than many yet realize.

      I’m hopeful, though not optimistic, that if nothing else this can spur legislation to reduce some of the myriad stupidities of government shutdowns. :/

  13. Sleepness in DC*

    My husband was supposed to start a new job at a federal agency this month. His new start date is whenever the govt. opens and he won’t be paid for the time he’s waiting for his job to start. We’re getting into a groove and I’m trying to enjoy the extra time we have together (I work from home) but it’s very, very stressful at the moment. He may start a job search if this shutdown drags on through the month. It’s just not sustainable for us.

    1. S*

      Have you looked into seeing if he is eligible for unemployment? I have no idea since he hasn’t had his first day, but I wonder if it is possible either to claim from this job or the previous job.

      1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

        That’s interesting. He is, after all, still unemployed till he has his first day, right?

    2. ag*

      My son is supposed to start his first post-college job at a federal agency later this month and we have no idea when that will now happen.

  14. pcmart03*

    I was scheduled to start a new job on Jan 31st. My last day with my old position was the 21st, so now I’m unemployed. My recruiter was apologetic and swears I can start the moment the government reopens, but I’m sending out applications just in case this thing drags on beyond my savings.

    Here’s my question, should I address this situation in the application, or just wait for the interviewer to ask why I’m looking?

    1. EMW*

      I would be vague and say you left for another opportunity that fell through before you could start. If they ask you could explain in greater detail, but at least for a few months that shouldn’t be a big issue.

      Just as an aside, would you qualify for unemployment? I’m not familiar enough with the specifics of it, but that could help.

      1. Bawab*

        I think being vague that way may look bad. Did it fall through because they finally checked your references or credentials and realized there was a problem? Were you unprofessional during some part of the on-boarding process? They could imagine things that are OPs fault.

    2. Janey-Jane*

      I think you could be completely honest in this situation, during an interview, if it comes up.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Agreed. And make it clear that you’re not planning to get a stop-gap job until the shutdown ends, but you’re re-opening your job search in earnest. On the other end, I don’t think the agency you’re supposed to start with would blame you for going elsewhere. At least, I would hope not.

  15. De Minimis*

    I’m a contractor but my agency was among those that were fully funded prior to October. My previous agency is affected once again [even though their parent agency isn’t affected by the shutdown, their funding is from other agencies that are affected] and employees are having to work unpaid until the shutdown ends.

    This also hurts in other ways. I know at my previous agency most of our suppliers were small/local businesses, and I’m sure that’s common throughout the federal government. That doesn’t even consider the money spent by the employees in the small town where we were located. People often pretend that government spending occurs in some kind of vacuum that isn’t part of the regular economy but that is far from the case.

    1. Cacwgrl*

      That is exactly the case here where I am. The town literally exists because of the base it is adjacent to. Luckily, it is a very small town and the local credit unions have been quick to help where they can, loan and financial advice wise. The bulk of the Federal emloyees are not furloughed yet, but it’s probably coming. I’m not sure how long we have but I thought it was something like 3 months of funding until the organization I work for has to consider furlough. If the big hit comes for all of us, this town will take a huge hit.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I just got an email from the credit union I bank with, offering special loan/forbearance/assistance programs to folks affected by the furlough. Gods bless the local credit unions!

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Decades ago, when I was working for the State, there was some kind of event that ended up delaying paychecks for a week or more. My credit union went ahead and credited their customers’ accounts for their normal paychecks as long as they had direct deposit (this was back when it wasn’t practically a given). Bless the credit unions!

  16. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

    I’m luckily not effected, but Mr Gumption is in DRC working on the Ebola response without pay which is simultaneously admirable and infuriating

    1. Fed*

      Because the world is tiny, I am also working on Ebola response in the region… without pay. When y’all don’t get Ebola, please thank Mr. Gumption and me!

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        THANK YOU – every minute I don’t have ebola. May your vaccines be plentiful and effective.

    2. JustaTech*

      OT, but Mr Gumption is a freaking super hero and all of the folks working on Ebola in the DRC should be getting all the supplies they need, not some BS from back home about not getting paid!

    3. RedinSC*

      HUGE thanks to Mr. Gumption and Fed for keeping us ebola free.

      I was talking with some friends in Aus and they said if the government there does this it triggers new elections, because basically it means they can’t function as they are. An interesting idea for us to think about.
      To all who are working without pay, or furloughed, take care and I hope for a speedy end to this shutdown.

      1. Still Mostly Lurking*

        They tried it once, back in the 1970’s. Government was dissolved, and new elections called. It’s never gotten that far since.

      2. Not American, obviously*

        It’s hard for me to phrase this respectfully, but I’m looking in on this situation from overseas wondering how on earth the USA can claim to be a first-world country with this going on.

        Very best wishes to all those affected, and hoping for a swift and fair resolution.

        1. Loux*

          Yeah, in Canada if the government can’t agree on a budget bill, they can hold a vote of non-confidence (I think that’s the term), and in the event that the vote ends poorly for the government, there’s an election. But nothing like this can happen.

          1. Vancouver*

            Chiming in for two reasons: firstly to confirm that that’s the correct term, and secondly to provide some more context for readers from the US or other countries where government isn’t based on the Westminster system.

            Basically, in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and other countries with similar strucutres, the ‘government’ (executive branch) is chosen by the legislative branch. Generally speaking, this means that the leader of the party (or coalition) with the most seats becomes the leader and appoints ministers/secretaries and so on.

            “Losing the confidence of the [legislative branch]” is a technical term that means the executive has lost a vote on a limited list of crucial issues, often budgets. If the executive loses the confidence of the legislature, a new executive must be selected who can win the confidence of the legislature. Usually this means new public elections, but in certain places/circumstances this might just mean picking a different party to lead a fractured legislature.

            The United States is different as the executive (the president and others) are not chosen by the legislative branch and can only be removed through impeachment or similar proceedings. In other words, it doesn’t matter if the president has the ‘confidence’ of the house – as long as he doesn’t get impeached, he can stick around. (Westminster systems also generally don’t have veto systems, so there’s no chance that the prime minister of Canada, for example, could cancel a bill that’s already been passed. He’d have to stop it in the legislature before it passed.)

            Sorry this got a little long, but this is a topic I find fascinating. I could seriously talk about the intricacies and logistics of governments all day, if any of my friends would let me. :)

        2. Flower*

          A bit facetious, but the US is a first world country because the term by definition originally meant countries aligned with the US during the Cold War. (I think the definition has shifted since the end of the Cold War, though.)

          Whether we can claim to be a functioning developed nation is definitely up for debate. (And I’d lean towards “not sure”)

          1. Ego Chamber*

            THAT’S where that comes from?!

            I always felt like we got in on a technicality somehow but… gh, that’s so stupid. -_-

            1. Flower*

              Yeah I think people forget because we don’t really use the term second-world country very much (those were the ones aligned with the Soviets). Third world just meant aligned with neither, staying out of the Cold War. But first and third have held on as terms and changed a bit in meaning, and second was mostly forgotten.

  17. Garroulous Jane*

    What is the best way a non-federal employee can help those hit hardest? Is there a fund that can be donated to?

    And any suggestions on how to help non-people? (ie, This weekend I’m taking my kids to the park with several trash bags)

    1. Fed Bae*

      If they are people you personally know, take them out to lunch or to do something and cover the cost (or do something free). It’s important to get out of the house without adding stress by doing something expensive. But you are probably limited in what you can do for people you don’t personally know. Federal employees (depending on agency and position) are often prevented from taking monetary gifts (outside of personal relationships) due to ethics agreements. I doubt there is a fund available as well (despite popular attempts, you can’t actually GoFundMe the government).

      1. Garroulous Jane*

        I will donate to a local food bank; also donating to Navajo food bank as they are also affected by the shutdown & will see if my energy company has an “Operation Fuel”.

        1. RedinSC*

          Donating to your local food bank is a great way to help folks. Many military personnel already use them, so that is already helping people and hopefully the furloughed an unpaid folks know of that local resource they can tap into.

    2. Katastrophreak*

      Donate cash to food banks. They have greater purchasing power than you do, because they have negotiated it.

      Think of all the household necessities you need – toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo, etc. – and ask the food bank if they have a storage area for these. If not, which organization does?
      Is cash best, or do they work best in physical goods?
      Do these groups need someone to sort? Children (usually 8 or older) are very helpful at sorting.

      There are many ways to help!

    3. Pickles*

      I mentioned this above, but please consider donating to your local food bank. Last shutdown, an absolutely appalling number of people from my organization/area needed to use a food pantry.

    4. Elle*

      I like the idea of cleaning up parks!

      We have a ‘buy nothing’ group for our town on facebook, some people were offering up movie or event tickets for those impacted. Just some nice ways to get out of the house for free.
      Also, many electric and oil companies have donation funds for those temporarily unable to pay their bills. Our local one is called ‘operation fuel’.

    5. Furloughed Worker*

      Vote. Vote the bums out. Congress isn’t doing their most basic job. Fire them all and replace them with people who take the basic job responsibilities seriously.

  18. LQ*

    I’m a state not fed, but we had a shutdown and I hated hated hated when people would take it as an opportunity to rail about politics. Even when I agreed with them (which wasn’t a lot for the people who railed about it to me) I was still so mad and frustrated and hurt and got into an actual screaming match with more than one person. (It didn’t help that for me it was the same week my grandfather died so I was in a hell of a spot emotionally.)

    The best thing to do is take them out for coffee/a meal (and pay!) and talk about Not Work and Not Politics. Talk about movies, or baking, or new years resolutions, or whatever.

    My advise (that I write down in a giant note for myself every time we start prepping for a shutdown because shutdown prep is now a routine thing) for myself at least is, “Leave the house at least once a day. Even just to walk around the block.”

    1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      Yes. I was in a similar situation with my state shutdown (except it was my grandma who died). The economic and other effects last long beyond the shutdown itself. Even though we got back pay that came months later and savings had already been depleted, etc.
      You’re right– be in touch, treat someone to coffee or a meal, give them a cheap distraction.

      1. LQ*

        Take them to a movie and talk about the movie. Something. Anything that’s a distraction is a great kindness.

        The after effects were horrible. I didn’t get out of bed for 6 days. I was drowning in depression and it took so much longer to recover. I didn’t get back pay because of the weird situation I was in, I did get unemployment, but that’s not that much. And it was just stacked up things. All it takes is a few of those pegs to jostle to tumble down. It sucks. It really sucks.

    2. Proud Public Servant*

      That goes just generally for being friends with government employees. I do not want to talk politics during my free time, literally that is my job 50 hours a week and the last thing I want to do on a weekend or at the bar is to talk about things affecting my work.

      1. LQ*

        Very true. Unless you have actually useful information (which you don’t…the article you read on X is not useful information) I don’t want to hear it.

        1. Proud Public Servant*

          One time I was at a bar and a friend of a friend came up to me and started shouting at me about the school voucher program for about 15 minutes. I repeatedly tried to get him to stop and he just would not leave me alone. I eventually just gave him my business card and said “Here is my office number. Feel free to call Monday-Friday 9-5 and you are more than welcome to resume screaming at me then but right now I just want to drink my beer so leave me alone.” and just walked out of the bar.

          My friends will start talking to me about things that the legislature has done or asking me for the gossip and stuff like that and it just gets irritating.

      2. Le Sigh*

        Ooof, yeah. I don’t work for the government but work in a field that’s politics-adjacent. My friends, family, strangers at a wedding, etc., all want to discuss it when we’re hanging out. And I’m passionate and I care SO MUCH and I like my job, but … it’s also an exhausting job and I’m surrounded by this insanity 50-60 hours a week, and sometimes I just want to talk about … literally anything else.

  19. Reluctant*

    Sweet Fire Dreams, a restaurant in Alexandria, is offering a free sandwich to all furloughed employees and federal contract workers. Good for the duration of the shutdown. See their Facebook page for info and location. (I have never been there so can’t comment on the quality of the food – just thought this was an awesome gesture.)

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This happens a lot across the country! It’s worth it for folks to look for “shutdown deals” (I received a meal and a drink, which was incredibly generous of the proprietor).

    2. SansaStark*

      The name is actually Sweet Fire Donna’s and I go there often. It’s great food and thank you for reminding me that I should patronize this place even more as a non-fed who lives in the neighborhood!

    3. I Love Thrawn*

      Not quite the same, but in the wake of Hurricane Michael last fall, I was without power for five days. I was given two free hot meals during that time, two separate sources, the only warm food I had that week. It made a huge difference, even though it was really strange to stand in that line. I absolutely hate the situation our country is currently in, and my heart breaks for all those affected.

  20. AnonAnon*

    I am not furloughed as I am a contractor for a Navy agency. However our partners in the Coast Guard (I work on a joint program) are all working without pay.

    I am doing whatever I can to assist and keep at least a small portion of the program going, but my heart breaks for the crew members who are patrolling and providing maritime and border security at sea without pay.

    I’ve been through many a furlough myself and these things suck. Elected officials won’t do their jobs so they punish those who do. Just pass a damn budget already. The vast majority of Americans – private citizens, state governments, business owners – manage to budget every day.

    1. Spreadsheets*

      CG spouse here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “the military is funded!” from folks that don’t realize there are five branches and one is non-DOD. This situation is horrific and frustrating for all involved but especially so for active duty military as they don’t have the option to quit. Just wanted to say thanks for your acknowledgement.

      1. fiverx313*

        another CG spouse here… we’re lucky to be living in CG housing and have some savings to get us through, but i know a lot of my neighbors are in a more precarious situation. the community definitely pulls together at times like this but there’s only so much stretch to be had :(

  21. Stephanie*

    Sorry for everyone who is affected. Its unfortunate federal employees and contractors are being used as pawns in a political squabble

    1. Mommy MD*

      Very unfortunate. No one should be paid from the top down when this happens, including President, House, Senate, etc.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Agreed. If you’re not going to do your job, you shouldn’t be paid when there are people who are working for no pay.

        1. raktajino*

          Especially since the justification is supposedly “the job is so essential.” So other jobs are essential enough to still be required, but not essential enough to PAY THEM? How is this legal? Is it legal just in the sense that the federal govt can opt out of regulations that affect other orgs?

          I know I’m lucky that my husband’s position is in the “essential enough to be paid” category. I hope others can get back to work–and their paycheck–soon.

  22. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I was deemed essential and worked during the 2013 shutdown without pay. [Backpay came in later, but that is not helpful when you’re a recent grad with a ton of educational debt and almost no savings, and Congress is throwing a partisan tantrum.]

    I had not experienced the persistent stress and fear over financial distress since I was a kid, and it triggered a constant feeling of panic/anxiety. I was legitimately worried that I would become homeless if the shutdown lasted more than 15 days. We were all divided on whether we thought it would extend to Thanksgiving or whether it would be quickly resolved. I was also surprised by the impotent rage I felt toward Congress, who are all still paid during shutdowns.

    So here’s my immediate advice:
    1. Call your landlord / bank and try to negotiate a late payment schedule for your rent. If they won’t defer payment, try to make a partial payment. Unless you’re in metro D.C., San Francisco, or NYC, most landlords will have enough non-federal-employee workers to be able to work with you.

    2. Research your city/state’s eviction laws and tenant’s rights laws if you’re a renter. In some areas, it can take awhile to evict a tenant, while in others it can take 3–30 days.

    3. If you have educational debt, first try to negotiate a different deadline for payment (i.e., change your pay period). If that’s not possible, ask to put the loans in forbearance (but know that this will wrack up interest for at least 1 if not 2 months, even if the shutdown ends the next day).

    4. Get out of the house when you can. Visit free museums/parks, etc. Do something to keep your mind off of the shutdown.

    5. Access your support network. Hopefully your friends will understand how best to support you.

    If you’re a friend of someone affected by the shutdown, don’t ask them about the shutdown. Listen to anything they have to say. Ask how they’re doing in a neutral tone. Don’t try to rationalize to them that the situation will be ok—even if it will be ok in the future, it is somewhere between stressful and terrifying right now. Help distract them. If you’re able, treat them to a meal or coffee.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      A caveat to #1–of course, there are towns whose economy depends almost entirely on federal employees (e.g., near military bases, major federal offices/branches, etc.). You may not successfully negotiate, but it’s worth trying.

    2. LizM*

      This is good advice. I was pleasantly suprised at how willing banks were willing to work with me during the last shutdown. Even some of the major national banks are treating this the same way they treat natural disasters, and willing to delay payments or offer low-interest short term loans. We have a credit union specifically for federal employees, they were amazing.

      The other advice I would add to this is to turn off the news. Check it once a day if you need to know what’s going on, but keeping cable news on all day just makes me angry and makes me feel helpless. This thing is moving slowly, you won’t miss anything important if you turn it off for a few hours.

      1. many bells down*

        Yeah even Wells Fargo (who have been pretty evil the last couple years) has a big banner on their site telling people to click if they need help during the shutdown.

        1. Master Bean Counter*

          I just came in to say this. They have contact numbers listed for pretty much all of their services. Which makes me hate them just a little bit less.

      1. 8675309*

        Newseum and Building museum are offering free admission to furloughed federal employees during the shut-down.

    3. Elle*

      I like all your advice. Also, prioritizing which bills to pay. Electric companies usually will not ding your credit or threaten to turn off the lights for 60 days. Same with cable/internet. Many oil and electric companies also have a donation fund, ours is called ‘operation fuel’, for people who cannot afford payments. Obviously rent is more expensive than all those things combined if you’re in DC, but it doesn’t hurt to avoid spending money on those things until you have to.

      Oh, and visiting your local library. Books aren’t really given the credit they deserve these days. At home yoga videos are great too, there’s tons on youtube. I find I’m much happier when I feel like I’m using my ‘aggravating time’ to better myself.

      1. UnderwaterOphelia*

        I’m not always fond of Dave Ramsey, but anyone in this situation should use the 4 walls to prioritize payments in my opinion.

        “Food—buy your family food. That’s the very first thing you do. The next thing you do is keep the lights and water on—utilities. The next thing you do is take care of shelter (rent). Then you take care of transportation, and then you take care of basic needs clothing.”

    4. Observer*

      In NYC, as long as you’re being up front with your landlord and working with them, if you are in a multi tenant building (3 units or more), you won’t have to worry about eviction for several months. So, if your rent is due let your landlord know what’s up. They won’t be happy, but if they are smart, they won’t give you too much grief.

    5. Vancouver*

      Can I add a but to #5? Tell your support network what you need! If you have one friend/your mom/whoever who you want to be able to talk politics with, but want everyone else to butt out, tell them! And if you don’t have a strong personal support network in your area for whatever reason, I promise that something is available near you. Community centres, librarys, and similar facilities often can provide social support as well as resources if you need more. If you’re a member of a faith group, that’s a good place to turn too; if you’re not a member and have no interest in joining a faith group, some of them are very good at providing non-denominational support as well.

  23. Robin Bobbin*

    My son works for an agency that is not affected by the shut-down this time around. The last time it happened he was off work, but was OK, being single and thrifty. The country wasn’t safer with him being off, but he was personally OK. This time it would have been a whole different story. He signed a contract to buy a condo in mid-December. Escrow will close in a couple of weeks. I don’t think escrow has an allowance for “they’ll pay me eventually,” nor do moving companies.

    So let’s talk about the raise that federal workers were promised, but is now gone on a whim. Said offspring has been working for the feds for 12-15 years now (I never remember how long). Over the years he’s bumped up the payscale for experience and promotions, but funnily enough, he makes little more in 2019 dollars than he did in 2005 (or whenever) for 2005 dollars. Between the years of no raises and insignificant raises, he’s pretty much where he was coming out of college despite the move up the G-whatever ladder which hasn’t kept up with inflation. Sad.

    1. Proud Public Servant*

      I am so sorry to hear about your son’s difficulties, I recently purchased a home and 15 days before closing I was in a pretty bad car accident, car totaled, injuries, the works. Tell him to talk to his realtor or the person at the bank handling his mortgage, they may be able to help.

      1. Robin Bobbin*

        Sorry if I was confusing. This time he is not furloughed, so he’s not in trouble. Last time he was furloughed, so it would have been a problem. I’m sure some of the currently furloughed workers are facing issues where they are in a financial situation like mid-escrow or even a commitment like moving from one rental to another.

    2. Cacwgrl*

      What promised raise? It was made very clear months ago that federal pay was going to be frozen this year. WGIs and locality increases would not be approved, military excepted. I’m still surprised that some of my own family members still fully expected to see an additional increase this year. Maybe it will come later, but I doubt it. Either I’ll be right or pleasantly surprised…

      1. dunstvangeet*

        The House and Senate put in their General Government Funding Bill a 1.9% COLA adjustment.

    3. pancakes*

      Nearly everyone in the US is affected by wage stagnation that way. I don’t know why it hasn’t been more widely covered until very recently; it’s had a tremendous impact on my life and my politics.

      “Between 2000 and 2017, the richest households saw their incomes rise by 9.3 per cent, whereas the incomes of households at the fortieth percentile and twentieth percentiles fell by 2.1 per cent and 4.1 per cent, respectively.”

  24. M. Albertine*

    I work for a start-up company. The money for our Series B equity raise is coming in from an investor outside the country, and the wire was flagged by the FTC, which is no longer responding to communication about the additional paperwork we need to file in order to release the funds. Our company goes under at the end of the month if we don’t get these funds.

      1. M. Albertine*

        We have maxed out our line of credit. We are scrambling for additional investors and going back to current investors, but that is what is getting us to the end of the month. The equity raise was a long, drawn out process that depleted our resources and the personal credit of the founders (what the line of credit is based on). This was the light at the end of the tunnel and it is crushing to see it spiraling down the drain. Sorry for the mixed metaphors. :/

    1. FormerFed*

      Former congressional staffer here – call your congressman’s office and your senator’s, fill out a privacy release form (most of these offices have these forms – sometimes called 1974 privacy release forms – on their wesbites so you can get this done before you call), and have your paperwork ready to email to a staffer. Most of those staffers are essential and will be able to get ahold of someone at the FTC. The legislative offices at these agencies are essential as well.

      1. Elizabeth Proctor*

        Just as an FYI, congressional staff aren’t furloughed this time around. They are fully funded currently, so no need to worry about them being “essential”.

        1. FormerFed*

          I get that, but it’s worth mentioning that at times congressional staffers have been. So I wanted to ease the commenter’s fears that no one would be answering the phones.

  25. anonanners*

    Not directly affected, but I work in college financial aid and have students unable to get tax return transcripts and previous year taxes filed, which ties our hands as we legally can’t pay them aid. It’s insanely frustrating for the students and my heart hurts for these young people. As usual, the people with money are unaffected because they’ll just write a check. It’s the students who rely on federal grants and loans who are getting screwed.

  26. Greg NY*

    I’m not a federal government employee, but situations like this drive home the importance of having an entire year’s salary saved away as soon as possible. Some may say 6 months is sufficient, I say a whole year because the loss of a job (for those who aren’t government employees) and the resulting job search that may take a while, plus unforeseen household (or perhaps health) expenses or the need to buy a new car, are major expenses. 6 months worth should be saved away as quickly as you can humanly do it (reduce discretionary spending to zero at the beginning of your career) and a year’s worth should entail only very occasional, minimal discretionary spending. It may mean the loss of any fun for several years, but the peace of mind you’ll get from it will vastly outweigh that.

    1. Strawmeatloaf*

      It would literally take me years (I’d say at least 3) to save for 6 months on my current employment, and that would be by saving as much as possible and probably getting rid of my car. And I’m just by myself. It’s just not possible for some folks to be able to do that.

      1. Anon for this*

        I just recently had an unexpected windfall and for the first time in close to thirty years finally have enough in the bank for 6 months of expenses. Without that windfall, it would never have been possible. It doesn’t take much to deplete savings: medical/dental bills alone can do a number on you. Car repairs. Rent hikes. You name it, it happens.

    2. Not All*

      Most of the people I know who are affected live paycheck to paycheck BARELY squeaking by despite being incredibly frugal. Despite the popular myth, feds (especially those the in the land management & environmental agencies) don’t make a lot of money.

      Telling a furloughed fed or contractor that they should have had a year’s pay saved anyway is about as useful as telling someone graduating from college that they should have figured out a way to work while going to school so they wouldn’t have tens of thousands of dollars of debt…the math just doesn’t work like it did 30 years ago.

      1. Poor people exist you know*

        Yeah. Exactly this.

        As so often with your comments, Greg NY, you assert an unrealistic ideal as if it were a realistic universal requirement. You must be living in another reality to most of us. Saving a year’s salary wouldn’t mean the loss of “fun” for several years in my case. It would mean choosing between paying my rent and buying groceries. Which do you think I should give up?

        I’m happy for you that you apparently have zero idea what poverty is actually like. Really, I am. I sincerely hope you never have to find out. But please, PLEASE recognise your effing privilege here.

        1. Seifer*

          “you assert an unrealistic ideal as if it were a realistic universal requirement.”
          Holy crap, this. The comment reminded me of that scene in the Emperor’s New Groove where Yzma was like, “you should’ve thought of that before you became peasants!” That’s um, helpful.

          The time for “should have” has passed.

      2. Loux*

        Haha, Canadian public servant here… our contract has been expired for a few years and we haven’t had pay increases in that time. Cost of living is going up, but pay is not. Omg, it would take me at least 10 years to save a whole year of my after-tax salary! To save the before-tax would be closer to 15 years. And that is at my current rate.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      You know, that’s next to impossible for many, many people. Yes, savings are important, but so many people live paycheck to paycheck because of circumstances beyond their control. Personally, I make a good salary and lived in a very high COL area for most of my career, and while I have savings, there is absolutely no way I could have put away a whole year of money. Nor could any of my friends. If someone said to me, “Well, too bad you’re unemployed, don’t you have a year’s salary put by?”, I would probably try to thrash them.

    4. LQ*

      You know when my state shutdown happened it was right after I’d been laid off from my previous job and had gone for a while without pay there, then I took the state job at a significant pay cut and was just barely scraping by. Then the state shut down and I wasn’t able to get paid. If in that moment someone told me how I should have saved up better I would have been so mad I would have seen new colors because red would have been insufficient.

      Kindness in this moment rather than lectures about no one being allowed to have fun and any fun you had in the past being a thing that makes you bad human would be a good thing here.

    5. Me*

      This is not helpful and incredibly tone-deaf.

      At the beginning of my career, I was making below poverty level and qualified for several “welfare” programs. Trust me, there was no discretionary spending.

      Not to mention it’s a special kind of sick to kick people when they are down with “helpful” advice.

    6. Mommy MD*

      Good but unrealistic advice. Some people are barely making it already without the extras in life.

    7. Dragoning*

      That’s great, but ASAP for many people is likely never. This really isn’t helpful to people currently dealing with the furlough.

    8. AnonforToday*

      My coworker just had a baby who needed extensive surgery. Their savings are dried up from medical expenses and now we could be furloughed. Hos wife is alreafy working without pay. What do you expect him to do?

    9. Trout 'Waver*

      I really hate the word “should” and the mentality behind it. Unless solicited for advice, it’s an empty, shaming word in which the person shoulding on others offers no tangible help, no consideration of nuance, and no empathy.

      It’s readily apparent to anyone that we do not live in the world as it should be. We live in the world as it is.

    10. Birch please*

      This is wholly unrealistic for many, MANY people. Not to mention tone-deaf, unhelpful to those struggling right now in the current situation, and rather patronising to boot.

    11. This Daydreamer*

      What it drives home is the fact that most of us live paycheck to paycheck and how great it would be if we could have such a safety net in place.

    12. Peridot*

      Do you know how many working families live paycheck to paycheck? Or what percentage of bankruptcies are caused by medical debt? Or how many children live in poverty?

      If not, maybe you should go research some of that information before making tone-deaf, sweeping, unhelpful statements.

    13. Nerdling*

      Bless your heart, Greg, but I strongly suggest you look at the General Schedule and its associated COLA boosts, then consider the number of employees who work at the bottom end of the scale. Or the new employees who have recently come on-board but didn’t previously have jobs conducive to saving. Please tell them how they should be putting aside six months of savings when they make less than the poverty level.

      When I started, I was a GS-7. I made $50 too much that year to qualify for Section 8 housing. In NOVA/DC/MD. If we had had a shutdown that year, I probably would have had to quit and move back home or find a way to borrow money. I’d previously been in college and had been working for just over minimum wage. But, sure, I could have totally put away all that savings.

    14. Jessie the First (or second)*

      One of things that bugs me about this comment is the idea that the only reason someone would not have 6 months to a year’s worth of savings is because they prioritized “fun” over responsible money management.

      Oh hey, let me tell you a story.

      There was a time my husband and I both worked. Then I was laid off and was out of work for several months, and when I did get a job again, my income was half of what it had been. Rough, savings depleted, but we made it okay and didn’t lose our home and were able to keep food on the table. Then that next year? A massive, life-threatening health crisis of my son ensues, and I had to leave my job because he required round-the-clock care, so now we are down to one income and have ENORMOUS medical expenses.

      Now, I am now back at work because we got approved for 24-hour nursing care for my son, he is alive but medical expenses are still painfully high. Still, we make a comfortable income, and are slowly saving money again – but it is a SLOW process because we are digging out from almost losing our home to foreclosure. If I am laid off tomorrow (or, if I were government, furloughed) I would be in no position to weather a month without pay.

      If someone tut-tutted at me with their wrinkled nose in their air about how having fun is less important than saving money, I would have a hard time not punching that person in the neck.

      Plenty of people do not have a year of savings, and it isn’t because they were just having TOO MUCH GOSH DARN FUN to save.

    15. Observer*

      You’ve gotten a number of comments about how tone deaf, unrealistic and plain unhelpful your comment is.

      But, I have a questions. What exactly were you trying to accomplish with this? Especially given Allison’s explicit request to NOT tell people how they “should have saved”?

        1. Observer*

          I realized after I saw the later comments. But the basic question still stands. What’s the point of such a comment? Even if it were realistic and relevant to most Feds (which it’s not), common sense says that this is NOT actionable RIGHT NOW.

          So, why?

          And if anyone has some empathy – just a touch, not a lot, or took the time to read Katie the Fed’s post, they’d realize that it’s not something that someone could “hear” right now, even if they were in the demographic that could make something like this stick.

    16. pancakes*

      Somehow I did manange to accumulate several months’ worth of savings years ago, and I used every last bit of it after the 2008 crash, when I didn’t work for 8 months or so. Work and wages in my industry have never really recovered. How, exactly, do you imagine people living paycheck to paycheck—a majority of Americans—to set aside money they simply don’t have? I’m not trying to be snarky, I’m genuinely curious. There’s only so far one can cut expenses.

    17. (another) b*

      This is just not the reality for Americans, and likely others elsewhere. How about how I lost my job the same week we closed on our house? Our savings = our house. Fortunately there is unemployment for a reason, as well as retail and freelance that I did until I found a new job. Sure, everyone would love to have a large savings. Life happens and it’s not always possible.

  27. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’m still enraged on y’alls behalf that the Neanderthals actually sent out templates of letters that you can try giving to creditors. I can’t even imagine the stress having your paycheck cease causes. It’s like telling an injured person that they “should be” getting a settlement and not to worry about mounting debts that grow into monsters over time.

    It’s not much but I’m stomping my feet and ready to spin right through the ground in solidarity :(

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      To be fair, it looked like that letter was put out by people who are also victims of this scheme, not the perpetrators. Having a template can be helpful when you’re so stressed it’s hard to think of what to say!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I mean…I’m sure it’s worth a shot. I am wondering if we have stories of these pleas actually working. No property manager I’ve worked with has the ability to just accept landscaping in lieu of rent…but if it’s a small privately owned rented home, I could see a landlord having mercy on someone.

        A template also makes it so impersonal when you’re asking a huge favor to a creditor!

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Oh, I was thinking along the lines of “I’ve been furloughed, please let me make my Capital One payment a month late” and not “Can I do some electrical work in lieu of paying rent?” Cause yeah, that’s ridiculous.

        2. Hapless Bureaucrat*

          I rented from a landlady who had a small, privately owned triplex and one other duplex. We were one fourth of her monthly income. During our shutdown, when my spouse and I were both furloughed, she offered what flexibility she had, because she is a lovely person. But she had very little flexibility… and either she or we already did all the lawn care and most of the maintenance anyway.
          There are probably cases where this will work but it’s just not going to be tenable often. Many small landlords don’t contract with maintenance services and if they did having you do it instead for a month might not work with their contracts. Not to mention that’s only an option if you’re able-bodied. And have the right equipment.
          Most of our flexibility came from our credit union offering to skip loan payments, and bless them.

          1. J.*

            The other thing is that if they don’t do the lawn care themselves and decide to take your labor in exchange for rent, then they’re not using their landscapers that month and are just passing it on to them, too! The very idea to recommend that to your employees instead of paying them is galling.

    2. De Minimis*

      To be fair, they did something similar for the 2013 shutdown, though I don’t remember it being quite as ridiculous–I don’t recall any references to doing repairs in lieu of rent or advising us to consult our personal attorneys.

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      Also, in my limited experience with federal workers, they tend to live in the same areas. So a large apartment complex might have federal workers for a large portion of its tenants, making bartering unfeasible.

    4. Katie the Fed*

      Seriously. If we had painting or carpentry skills, we wouldn’t be spending our days writing memos :D

  28. Anon to All*

    I am a contractor for a Navy agency which has not been affected, but our partners in the Coast Guard (I work on a joint program) are working without pay. They continue to patrol and provide maritime assistance round the clock.

    I’ve been furloughed myself numerous times. The worst part of furloughs is that there is NO REASON for them to happen. Absolutely none. How on earth can hard-working employees be laid off or not paid because elected officials in both branches of government (and both parties) didn’t do their job?

    Rant aside, I got through my furloughs by focusing on home and reducing expenditures. Cleaned out closets, scrubbed the kitchen tile. Recommend getting a stack of library books and movies and chilling.

    Also, check local news channels and papers for business owners offering discounts and specials. We got a break during the last furlough from our local car dealer who knocked a couple grand off a very expensive car repair, to whom I am forever grateful.

  29. The Librarian (not the type from TNT)*

    I’m infuriated at our government for allowing this to happen yet again, but as far as politics goes, I’ll leave it at that.

    What mystifies me the most is the expectation that workers would work without pay for an indefinite period. Even with the pledge of eventual back pay. If it were me, I truly don’t know how I’d be able to motivate myself to go to work. I like my job very much, but if my employer told me I wasn’t going to get paid for it for potentially a very long time, the temptation to say “F it” would be so, so strong.

    1. De Minimis*

      It was super difficult in 2013. Morale was very low. One thing that didn’t help was that some employees were unaffected by the shutdown depending on how their salaries were funded. Some of the managers who were still being paid organized a special meal for all of the employees. It was a small gesture but I know it meant a lot to me.

    2. Jadelyn*

      Right? I’m not a bloody volunteer. We are engaging in a transaction where you give me money for my labor. If you can’t deliver on your half, why on Earth should I feel obligated to deliver on my half? I can’t even imagine how incredibly demoralizing that’s got to be, expectation of back-pay notwithstanding.

      1. De Minimis*

        I think what gets a lot of people through who are working unpaid is that we’re usually involved in work that directly impacts people. My agency was healthcare related, so I think a lot of people worked with the mindset of “Our patients still need us.”

    3. Canadian Public Servant*

      In many cases, it’s because we know what it means to people if we don’t do the work? And also because the option to quickly change jobs may not be available. And because of hope and sunk costs.

      (I say “we” as a public servant in Canada, who has been “Phoenixed,” aka affected by the payroll system the Government of Canada put in place in late 2015/early 2016 that has resulted in huge numbers of employees being underpaid, overpaid, not paid at all as well as myriad other messes with our compensation. I’m not amongst those most affected – I’m only owed about $15,000, from ongoing underpayment – but people have lost their homes over this. It’s dragged on for three years so far, and there’s no end in sight. That said, I know the situation at hand is quite different, and I have so much empathy for the people on furlough.)

        1. Haligolightly*

          Another Canadian fed here who’s “only” owed several thousand dollars. I’ve pretty much given up on ever seeing it, tbh.

          A colleague at a previous job was overpaid for her entire maternity leave, then not paid at all for months when she returned – and then the overpayment re-started. The pay advisors couldn’t explain to her why or how the overpayment was calculated, only that “the system” said she owed many tens of thousands of dollars and she should re-pay it, trusting that “the system” had done its job correctly. No thanks.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’m infuriated at our government for causing this to happen yet again

      Fixed that for ya.

    5. Autumnheart*

      It would be financially draining, too. At least if I’m staying home, I’m not using gas, putting miles on the car, creating additional laundry by wearing work clothes, etc. Physically going to work costs money. What’s in it for me if I actually have to pay money in order to show up at a job I’m doing for free?

      1. De Minimis*

        It was super tough. Our facility was in a smaller town with not much available housing, so most people lived in larger towns that were a good 20-30 miles away. I think gas prices were higher back in 2013 too [at least that’s one thing that’s better this time around for those who have to come in and work unpaid.]

    6. Nerdling*

      We focus on the positive impact being here has. The fact we have to work means we’re in positions that have health and safety impacts (negative ones) if nobody does the job. It’s the third one this year and so many since I started my career that I’ve lost count; I can’t do anything to change it, so I’m trying to concentrate on doing the best I can with what I’ve got.

      Also high doses of my anti-anxiety meds and antidepressants. :P

  30. pop*

    The most wasteful part of this is we’ve never not paid back furlough. So this time of weeks off without pay only hurts those who are closer to living paycheck to paycheck. All the upper level pay bands, those people are just getting a free vacation (I was one last furlough, but my heart goes out to those that are not able to live a few months on savings).

    1. Liet-Kinda*

      And, it never hurts to point out, we may pay backpay and make them whole, but the years’ worth of cumulative FTEs will never be recovered. Federal workers do…work. Work that is not getting done. The waste that entails is staggering to me.

    2. Christy*

      Yes! I’m high-graded and have substantial savings, so I’m enjoying the free vacation. (So far. I started cleaning yesterday and my furlough dreams started last night.) I was furloughed in 2013 too, and I promised myself after that one that I’d just treat them as vacations because I don’t have any power to do anything else anyway.

    3. Chaordic One*

      Even if you don’t have financial worries, you really can’t just up and leave and go on vacation.

      My supervisor told me that when we are called back to work we could have as little as 4 hours notice to get back to work. If you can’t get back to work in within the 4 hours you would be considered “absent without leave” and could be written up for it. You can’t really plan a vacation any farther away than you could get back to work within 4 hours. It is more like constantly being “on call.” The stress of the situation makes it a “staycation” at best, and not a very pleasant one at that.

      The best you can do to use the time is to try to do a few little jobs around the house.

  31. Canadian Public Servant*

    I am just now realizing what it means to be an essential worker in the US when the government goes on furlough – I just assumed that those employees were still paid, because to not seems insane and like it would be illegal. Here’s hoping everyone is back to work soon, and gets the back pay they deserve.

    1. Anon for this one*

      Ditto. I’ve been Phoenix’d up the wazoo for almost three years now, but I have two friends working for the State Department (one in Brazil, one in DC) and another friend working for the Coast Guard, and this furloughing stuff just seems beyond bananacrackers.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        Another one being Phoenix’d, though in my case “only” affected for 8 months with no end in sight. I empathize hard with the eye-rolling here over “Well, you’ll get back pay eventually!” So will I – maybe in a year from now, or later than that, whenever they do get around to fixing it.

        I’m so upset on behalf of hardworking Americans who are now facing all kinds of uncertainty due to temper tantrums happening on high.

        1. Haligolightly*

          Another one Phoenixed over here. I’m owed several thousands starting from 2016 but hey – it could be so much worse.

    2. Brett*

      I used to be an essential worker for local government, and it is a similar issue there. Because we were essential staff and the nature of the work we did, we only had to be paid for our first 40 hours every week during disaster response. Anything beyond that, we could be required to work without pay. Our chief elected official would just declare a “disaster” at the drop of a hat and put all the essential response staff on duty extra hours without pay. I had a lot of 100 hour weeks, wrapping up in a 120+ hour week (flood response) in one of my last months there.
      At least I was getting paid my base pay, but it was also clear that our essential worker status was getting abused to have us fill in hours for hourly workers who would be overtime eligible.

      1. TechWorker*

        As someone who feels absolutely shattered after a 50 hour week I am astonished people don’t just fall asleep on shift in that sort of scenario.

        1. Brett*

          Since we were working 20 on 4 off, a lot of us were sleeping at work on cots and only going home to shower and change clothes. (Free food, including midnight rations, was provided the whole time.)

  32. kage*

    I’m not a government employee but another example of how non-fed folks are still being affected:
    Our daughter was just born a few days ago at the end of 2018 and the issuance of her social security number will now be held up due to the shutdown. Our eldest was born during the 14-day shutdown in 2013 and it took 3 months for her to actually be assigned a number. We can only speculate that it will take at least this long again (and who knows how long in actuality depending on how long this shutdown lasts)… which means that it runs into tax season deadlines…

    Not excited at all to figure out how to deal with taxes this year now if we have a new dependent but she doesn’t have a ssn yet :(

    1. DCGirl*

      In DC, because the courts are funded by the feds, and the marriage bureau is part of the courts, people can’t get wedding licenses. The Post has a story about people going ahead with their receptions and planning a courthouse ceremony when things re-open.

    2. Cat Chaser*

      I believe for taxes you can write in (somewhere) “SSN applied for” for your new daughter.

    3. Brett*

      If you will owe taxes, your best bet is to file without claiming your daughter as a dependent, then filing an amended return once you have her SSN.
      If you will not owe taxes, you can keep filing extensions until you get the SSN. (But if your return is big even without her as a dependent, you might want to file now to get the return, then file an amended return once you have the SSN.)

      1. many bells down*

        They won’t be issuing refunds until the shutdown ends anyway. I just saw an article explaining that refunds will be delayed if it continues into the end of January.

        1. AnotherFed*

          Usually the IRS goes offline the last week of Dec in every year to make changes to the databases for the upcoming filing season, this year the shutdown happened first. And thanks to the “new tax laws”, the 2019 filing season is going to be like none other as not only are we filing under new laws, but the 1040 forms as well as the schedules have changed. So unless the IRS had essential personnel working on the database changes; I expect refunds will take even longer than normal. And keep in mind, if the 1040 is filed with a claim for EITC, the refund under normal circumstances is not sent out until the week of Feb 27th.

    4. top secret name*

      I’m crossing my fingers for you it will all work out, but also stunned at the statistical impressiveness of that happening twice.

      1. Kage*

        Lol- believe me, so am I. This kiddo was due in 2019 so I was counting on not having any real issues with the shutdown as I had a whole year before I really needed her ssn. But she surprised us all early!

      2. Katie the Fed*

        yeah usually the babies get CONCEIVED during the shutdowns – especially in the two-fed families :)

    5. Goya de la Mancha*

      Because humor is my coping mechanism…

      Please let us know the next time you plan to conceive so we can plan accordingly for the next shutdown ;)

  33. Greg NY*

    My last comment notwithstanding, I am deeply sympathetic to those employees who have been furloughed. I hope the shutdown ends soon (we are all feeling the effects now because National Park Service sites aren’t providing any visitor services (and the Smithsonian museums have now even run out of money to stay open).

    I want to know how it’s legal to expect essential government employees to work without pay during the shutdown. I understand furloughing non-essential ones, but this wouldn’t be legal in the private sector, and I’m not sure it’s even legal at the state or local government level. Yes, for essential employees there is a promise of pay after the shutdown (as opposed to it being in the hands of Congress for non-essential ones), but private companies can’t just promise to pay their employees later when they know more money will be coming in. I think pay for essential workers government workers needs to be an automatic appropriation not affected by a shutdown. It is abhorrent that the OPM (Office for Personnel Management) website has advice for negotiating with creditors during the shutdown!

    1. CAA*

      It’s legal because the Federal government exempts itself from most labor laws such as FLSA. For example, during the last shutdown, the contractor company I worked for got the order to resume work on a Wednesday or Thursday. All the government employees were back in their jobs on that day, but we had to tell our Contracting Officer that we could not resume work until the following Monday because as a private company we were required to pay a full week’s salary to exempt employees who work any part of a week. If we’d called people back to work for Thursday and Friday, we would have had to pay them for Monday to Wednesday as well, and the government wasn’t going to pay us for that time since we didn’t provide them with any contracted services on those days. If a contractor can’t bill the government, then they don’t have money to pay their employees, so contractors lost another 2 days of pay even after the shutdown ended.

      1. Jilly*

        Yeah you have to pay a full week, but you can force the staff to use vacation time. I’m a federal contractor and we are short on work because of the holidays so half of my team is “on vacation”. Is this what I planned to do with my PTO? Nope.

        1. CAA*

          Yeah, that also happened to us at the beginning of the last shutdown. Got the stop work order on Wednesday and everyone was required to use PTO for Thursday and Friday. After that it was our option whether to use PTO until we ran out or go on leave without pay for the duration.

          Just from a financial perspective, my advice is to use the PTO to cover the shutdown even if you have a trip planned in the future. Shutdowns can lead to businesses going bankrupt or having to do permanent layoffs and you may lose access to that money entirely if you don’t grab it while you can. If you’re still able to take the trip in the future, you can ask to use LWOP then.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      The federal government (and states, too) is exempted from most of the laws that affect private-sector workers.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes, but oftentimes it takes forever to resolve. My colleagues who were non-exempt are members of a class action related to the 2013 shutdown, and awards still haven’t been calculated for each class member. In the short-term, it’s difficult to obtain the money relief folks need to handle their day-to-day needs.

          Because Greg in NYC was asking how it’s legal to make people work during a shutdown without any pay or guarantee of backpay, I wanted to clarify the different legal frameworks for government v. private-sector workers. There are still protections (government-specific laws, CBAs, etc.), but it’s definitely a different legal universe than non-government employment/labor law.

    3. voyager1*

      I understand the national parks are what everyone thinks of. But depending on how long this goes on for, some people will not be getting tax refund checks as quickly too. When you mess with people and money, that usually gets the attention of those people.

  34. 4Sina*

    Anxiously awaiting news about National Zoo/SCBI essential staff and where they fall in this mishigas. It’s hard enough work – both physically and emotionally – to dedicate your life to animal welfare and ex-situ conservation, and I hope they’re getting the support they need. My partner and I work for the same locally-governed institution and couldn’t imagine getting by with a shutdown that would take us out of our work (we would be considered non-essential) and with no pay for indeterminate time. Of course my sympathies also extend to contract workers and other federal employees, as well as the national park service as a whole.

    1. 4Sina*

      My last sentence reads weird – I’m having a hard time organizing my thoughts. Thoughts to the NPS because of the damage being done by unsupervised “visitors”. I live squarely in flyover country and feel so helpless to support institutions and places I love dearly, especially because I know first-hand how dedicated staff are and how painful this must be on so many levels. Echoing so many others, wish there was more directly actionable we could do even if we don’t personally know any current employees.

  35. No Longer Indefinite Contract Attorney*

    DC feds with pets who need feeding–the Humane Rescue Alliance has a program for DC residents that is essentially a pet food pantry. I’ll post a link in the comments if that’s something that would help anybody.

    1. Jessen*

      Don’t suppose there’s anything around for MD/VA folk? I lost a pet recently and have a bunch of supplies I’d be happy to drop off for anyone in need of them. (I’m a fed contract employee but luckily not one affected by this shutdown.)

      1. J.*

        I clicked around and there’s a few in VA and MD listed on the website there. (Specific page with addresses & phone numbers listed in link if you click on my name.)

        1. J.*

          Hmm, that didn’t work this time. Here they are:

          DMV Area Pet Food Banks

          Pet Pantry
          1201 New York Avenue
          Washington, DC 20005
          Must be a DC resident

          Northern Virginia
          Ani-Meals Program
          Humane Society of Fairfax County
          4057 Chain Bridge Road
          Fairfax, VA 22030
          703-385-PETS (7387)

          Loudon Pet Pantry
          Loudoun County Animal Services
          39820 Charles Town Pike
          Waterford, VA 20197

          Pet Food Pantry
          Prince William SPCA
          Woodbridge, VA 22195

          Pet Food Bank
          SPCA of Ann Arundel County
          1815 Bay Ridge Avenue
          Annapolis, MD 21403

          Emergency Pet Food Bank
          Frederick County Humane Society
          550 Highland Street, STE 200
          Frederick, MD 21701

          Chompers Pet Food Bank
          The Animal Welfare League of Montgomery County
          12 Park Avenue
          Gaithersburg, MD 20877
          Must be a Montgomery County, MD resident

      2. lurker bee*

        Condolences on the passing of your pet. It is kind of you to be thinking of how to help others.

  36. Likeaboss*

    I work for a state agency in a dept that’s federally funded. We’re ok right now. The state has funding to cover us, and is keeping us updated.

    I’ve had people comment that I don’t work hard. I tell them if they had to do my job for 1 day they would be in fetal position under their desk. I’m union, so I’m only to work 37.5 hours. I can’t remember the last time I put in 37.5 hours. Hell, I bring my work phone with me on vacation so I can triage stuff that needs to be handled while I’m “away”

    I’ve been told I get paid too much. I could go work in a nursing facility or hospital and make at a minimum 10 grand more than I make now. I didn’t get a raise for nearly 3 years, and once the new contract was finally approved I still had to wait 6 months for it to be approved. I get told that I’m wasting gov’t money because of my pension, except 9% of my salary goes to that.

    The truth is public employees are proud to serve our country and our states. We do vital work for teh people of our country and our communities. We work hard. While we joke internally about ” how I have a cushy state job” the reality is that we bust our asses for less pay than the private sector and only marginally more than the non profit.

    My heart goes out to those affected by the shutdown. Fingers crossed that it’s handled by EOB today

  37. LizM*

    This is my first shutdown as a supervisor/manager. In fact, ironically, even though I’d been in an acting role for months, my first official day as the permanent manager was Dec. 24, meaning that my first official action was to shut our office down on Dec. 26.

    I’m curious to hear from other feds whether you would appreciate hearing from your supervisor just to check in and see if you have questions. I don’t want to intrude on people, but I remember in 2013, I felt very isolated and it was nice when my supervisor called a couple times just to check in.

    I’m on call, so can do work directly related to the shutdown, my employees are furloughed, and I can’t contact them to do work, but I can contact them to provide updates.

    1. LQ*

      Not someone shut down now: I would have liked a small non-intrusive one, a text would have been good. But my boss was still working and I wasn’t so I was kind of bitter about that. I get it and all, but I was still trying to figure out how to pay rent so being able to ignore it would have been really important.

    2. Rena*

      My supervisor is checking in occasionally, just to say “Hey guys, watered your plants” or “Hope this ends soon, I’m bored out of my mind” and it’s a nice reminder that we’re in this together.

    3. Jaid_Diah*

      My supervisor sucks, so no, I wouldn’t want to hear from him and I don’t expect to, either. But it sounds like you care, so the occasional text or email to make sure your team is OK and to catch up is fine.

      My best friend works at the same agency I do and is also furloughed. I hang out with her sometimes. And I keep in touch with some of my co-workers via text. But I live alone and with just the cat for company…yeah I do feel isolated a bit.

    4. Hapless Bureaucrat*

      I’m not a fed, but I have been though a state shutdown and I very much appreciated when my supervisor checked in. I didn’t care that much how the office was functioning without me, and I didn’t really want to lay all the gory details on my supervisor. But the quick “hey, I’m thinking about you and hope you’re managing all right” was nice. It’s such an isolating experience it was good to feel remembered.
      It probably depends on your relationship with your direct reports but yeah, I think the instinct is good.

    5. gmg22*

      Follow-up question re this: I seem to recall hearing from govt-employed friends during an earlier shutdown that in some cases, supervisors weren’t ALLOWED to check in with employees because that would be considered work. Is that something that’s (understandably) ignored in practice?

      1. LizM*

        I believe, if I understand the guidance, I cannot ask them to do work, but I can provide updates and answer questions. I’ve already heard from a couple people who had questions about benefits that they didn’t ask because they either thought the shutdown would be over quickly, or people were distracted because all the notifications went out within a couple days of Christmas and people had a lot on their mind.

        1. kelmarander*

          In my experience as a Fed going on 20 years, the guidance to “give employees updates” has meant that you’re allowed to call on day X (while we’re still closed) to let you know you must come back in on day Y (once we havewe learned that shut down will end). It hasn’t been for social purposes. As most Feds know too well, the rank-and-filers (“non-essential”) are prohibited from accessing laptops/networks, using agency devices, or even peeking at Outlook. It’s literally against the law to work when you aren’t in pay status. So communication would be on personal accounts/numbers only. Some Feds are not OK about that, especially since all the emails-on-private-server hoopla from 2016 onward.

          Also, at least at my current agency, there’s bitterness about the leadership team being there while those who actually get things done are home. The middle managers, tasked with deciding who is “essential,” will designate themselves as such, regardless of whether those managers could actually continue program operations themselves. In an environment where public health or national security concerns aren’t evident, agencies can often keep a “skeleton crew” on board for continuity of operations purposes (e.g., pay bills for liabilities out of non-appropriated funds). So a dispatch from someone back at the ranch would be unwelcome.

          So my advice would be to play to the culture of your organization. My team keeps a group text going among all managers and employees (about 10 of us), where we’ll wish happy birthdays or share minor personal details on/off the clock. So we have precedent for me to ask folks how they’re holding up. And the politicization of who has been designated “essential” is generally rolling off our backs. But if you haven’t already established that personal-communique rapport and habit with EVERYONE on your staff, don’t start now. Reaching out right now, when employees assume that you won’t be in touch until the end of the furlough, could cause disappointment and confusion when staff see that you’re calling/messaging.

    6. Christy*

      I’m currently furloughed. If my boss contacted me I’d assume I’d be back to work, which would be a big startle both initially and when I learned we weren’t back, he was just calling to chat. I definitely wouldn’t want any updates—it’s not like my boss knows anything more than I’ve learned from the news.

      If a previous boss with whom I’m friends contacted me to chat, that would be totally fine because I like talking to them and miss them. But my direct boss? No thank you. And I’d want a text first so I know it’s just a shoot the breeze convo.

    7. Marillenbaum*

      I’m in language training, and while I don’t think I’d want to hear from my supervisor (because we barely interact while I’m in class), if I were in my regular job, I would probably want to hear from my supervisor in brief, non-intrusive ways as a solidarity thing. Like “Hey, hope you’re doing okay. -Craig”

  38. Jersey's mom*

    I work for a private company. I work with many people in the regulatory agencies. Some have funding, some don’t and are furloughed.

    I feel terribly for all of them. So many are friends that I’ve worked with for years, and we have great relationships. They’re either doing the work of 3 people or working/not working without pay.

    Personally, what hurts me the most is there’s nothing personal I can do, like provide them a gift card to the grocery store. The only thing I can do is tell them which of my applications can be put on the back burner and don’t need reviews, and to reorganize projects as much as possible to avoid consultations or permits (although we try to do that all the time).

    I feel like this is a train wreck and my hand are tied in trying to help the injured. Yeah, I can, and am, contacting my local politicians, but it doesn’t feel like enough.

  39. Guacamole Bob*

    We live in DC and my spouse and I aren’t federal employees, but our kids are in a daycare in a federal facility (my spouse used to be a fed, which is how the kids qualified for spots, but has since left the federal government). The staff has been great and the parent company of the daycare has opened up spots in other facilities, including one that’s new and not yet full and so has plenty of classroom space. So my preschoolers are with 1/3 of their class and a few of their teachers in a daycare that’s a 20-minute drive on the highway in the wrong direction, instead of on the way to work.

    It could be way worse – I really feel for all the low-wage service employees who work for government contractors who will never see back pay, and the small business owners of things like cafes and dry cleaners that mostly serve federal workers – but it’s still a total pain in the neck and pretty disruptive to our entire family. Young children are not fond of change.

  40. JustMyOpinion*

    I am a furloughed worker lucky enough to have savings to get us through and family support. We are the lucky ones. If you are looking to help those who are not:

    1. If you are a landlord or owed a debt from a federal worker, please grant them grace through this time.
    2. If you know someone furloughed (especially those in lesser paid position) bring them a meal, etc.
    3. Don’t rail on the federal workers–we often are paid less then the private sector. Most federal workers are hard-working and care about their country. Politics, furloughs, etc. are not the fault of the federal worker, we just want to do our jobs.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      I’ve seriously seen some of the hardest workers employed in government agencies. Some feel it’s their duty to not appear to fit into the stereotype of “lazy government worker”.

      And I’ll add this. Invite them to your home for socializing. Invite them over for dinner, watch a movie, play board games.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        Hell, even as someone who is furloughed right now, I’ve noticed my colleagues are trying like hell to keep morale up amongst our cohort: hosting each other for meals, doing game nights, trips to fee-paying museums that have waived entry fees for feds, etc.

  41. Jennifer*

    Just want to express that I am so sorry for everyone that is suffering because of the shutdown and hope that it ends soon. I wish there was more I could do but you are all in my thoughts.

  42. Erin*

    I’m furloughed, and it’s just such an exhausting and weird experience. I love my work so much and I miss it, deeply.

  43. Anon Accountant*

    In work for a local government so we aren’t shut down but several of our contacts are affected. Will be thinking of everyone affected by the shutdown. Am soooo hoping they have the back pay issued ASAP and the shutdown is over super fast.

    Several contacts have said they’re nervous financially. Many thoughts to all affected.

  44. LizM*

    Another note on how hard this is. The holidays and the time right after the holidays is hard anyway. It’s going to be harder this year if you’re dealing with financial stress and what really can be an identity crisis. I love my job and I love being a civil servant, but every time one of these happens, I question whether this is the right career path and whether it’s worth it.

    My agency’s EAP is still active, and provides up to 6 counseling sessions for free, and a 24 hour hotline. If you need to speak to a professional, please reach out. I assume if my agency structured their contract to continue through a shut down, other agencies probably did as well.

    1. LizM*

      And if you have a friend or family member who is struggling, offer to do the research for them. It can be very hard to muster the energy or brainspace to navigate the mental health system, or to recognize how bad things have gotten, if you’re in the middle of a mental health crisis.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      This is so true. This is the job I’ve wanted to do since I was a teenager and found out it existed. Now, I’m looking at how to scrape through the period of obligation imposed by the pathways program I was in and bailing to a more secure profession.

  45. Anonandon*

    I don’t know many people who can afford to be without a paycheck for long. I certainly can’t. This whole situation just makes me furious. That’s not really useful, so I’ll try to channel my rage into something more helpful, like donations to a local foodbank (I live in the metro Philly area and we have a fair number of federal employees who have been impacted by the shutdown).

  46. Dragonfly*

    Well done, Sweet Fire Dreams! I feel banks maybe ought to chip in, seeing as they were the sector that was bailed out with tax money back in 2008.

  47. DCGirl*

    My husband is a furloughed employee, and I work for a government contractor in the IT space.

    It’s really starting to set in for him this week. The furlough started at midnight on Friday, December 21, and Monday, December 24, and Tuesday, December 25, were already scheduled as holidays. He had to go on on Wednesday, December 26, for four hours to actually shut down his work. In his case, as a paralegal, that consisted of working with the attorneys to file continuances for every deadline in the next two weeks for every case they are currently working on as well turning on out-of-messages and so forth. So, even the “non-essential” furloughed employees had to do some work without pay as part of this. Then, we were scheduled to go out of town over the New Year’s weekend, so he’d already arranged to take Friday, December 28, and Monday, December 31, off.

    Now that the holidays are behind us, it’s really setting in, and we both think that this shutdown will be on the longer side. We are fortunate that we are a two-income family with a savings philosophy that includes have six months of expenses in the bank. We know others in the DC area who are not as fortunate.

    He’s trying to keep busy with some tasks around the house. Long story, but I cash in my credit card points on gift cards every year, and I had $50 in Dunkin Donuts $10 cards that I gave him so he can go out, get a cup of coffee, and sit and read for a little while just to be around people a bit. We’re at the age where some of our friends have already been able to retire, so he’s going to set up some lunch or coffee dates with them. I also have money in my Flexible Spending Account that needs to be used by January 31, so he’s going to catch up on a couple of appointments and also get new glasses that he needs. But, he’s getting a little grumpy and annoying. The contract between Verizon FIOS, our cable provider, and the local CBS affiliate expired December 31, and the two entities have yet to reach a mutually agreeable price. As a result, we have no CBS station right now, just a screen telling us about the dispute. He’s taking it very, very personally, and it’s not like we really even watch much on CBS.

    I get very annoyed with people who say that his work must not be that important if he was furloughed. He routinely works to between 7:00 and 8:00 at night and pulls all-nighters when a big trial is coming up. Please don’t forget that these same furloughed employees were just told that the president has cancelled cost-of-living pay increases for when they come back.

    1. Christy*

      Yeah, it’s just set in for me this week because before it was like a Christmas holiday. At least my condo is cleaner!

    2. Nerdling*

      Honestly, all of the non-excepted employees’ absence is going to get painful the longer this rolls on, because their positions are the behind-the-scenes ones: trainers, paralegals, HR folks, administrative people who keep things running smoothly on normal days. It’s almost all important work (I’m sure there must be some extraneous positions, just because large organizations always have some spare, but I’m having trouble thinking of any); it’s just not necessarily IMMEDIATELY important work.

  48. epi*

    To those affected, I am sorry this is happening yet again. I work in a field– public health– where many people are federal employees or dependent on federal funding (only the latter for me). I am always so impressed by the federal employees I deal with. I’m not sure if I could ever work under the constraints that they do, let alone put out their quality of work where often I wouldn’t even know there had been constraints if they didn’t tell me. As someone who understands (some of) your work and working conditions, I just want to say how deeply I appreciate it. I know how essential it is, and what some of the trade-offs are.

    I am also curious if federal employees and contractors see this affecting their workforce and trainees? I am a PhD candidate now and am still deciding whether I will consider federal employment when I graduate. If my husband didn’t have a good, fairly portable job, I wouldn’t be able to consider it at all. Obviously, I chose my field out of an interest in public service and it is really sad to me that it may come to that. My school has also benefited significantly from being able to hire amazing people voluntarily leaving federal agencies, and that really sped up in 2016. It is scary to know that I am seeing just a fraction of the talent and institutional knowledge leaving these absolutely essential institutions.

    1. CAA*

      Yes, shutdowns affect the workforce into the future. I lost two of my best people (we were contractors) after the 2013 shutdown because they just didn’t want to deal with that kind of instability and there were plenty of other employers who were happy to have their in-demand skills. The government is certainly worse off, even if it’s in a small way, for not having as many talented people willing to work with them.

    2. Megan*

      Federal supervisor here. I’ve been in touch with my 8 direct reports (we are all on furlough) and most are doing okay and not considering leaving the federal service. We’re a science agency and people are extremely committed to our mission. Yes, shutdowns are difficult, but don’t let it deter you from a federal career. I’ve found the work to be so rewarding and I miss working right now.

  49. voyager1*

    My family is impacted and this one really has us worried.

    I am pretty raw about it right now. This is what the 3rd shutdown of the Trump admin?

    I am really to the point of if my family doesn’t get a check (and yet still works) then nobody else should either. Yep I am saying cut everyone off. No SS checks for the old folks. Medicare yep shutter that mother too. Oh the precious troops, that’s nice they can check their gear and sit in the barracks with no pay too. People act like a shutdown ain’t no big deal just means you can’t visit Yosemite because that is what both sides want. They want federal employees as hostages.

    Like I said I am pretty raw about this one. The manbabby needs to be checked over at 160o Penn. No gonna apologize for who this offends either.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That’s wonderful that you won’t be meaningfully affected, but surprise, some people will be. In many cases, it’s through no fault of their own. Would you really say the above to a janitor who makes minimum wage? Seriously, this is not the time for this lecture.

    2. Amber Rose*

      How very narrow minded, unhelpful and ignorant. And rude.

      Why do you feel the need to grind salt into the wounds of people who are suffering?

    3. CookieWookiee*

      I think that’s hardly a helpful comment. Many, many people are forced to live paycheck to paycheck for reasons beyond their control, none of which have anything to do with living above their means. Signed, a furloughed fed married to another furloughed fed.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yes, I’m sure a lot of people are saying “Wow, it never occurred to me that I should save some money!” Thank you for that valuable insight.

    5. MommyMD*

      I’m happy you are not affected but no need to take a shot at those who are. Everyone has different life circumstances. One day you may be the one in need.

    6. Amber T*

      There are times to discuss personal finance. I’m a PF junkie, I love it. But an open forum for people who are forced to work without pay or forced to not work at all isn’t that time. Your general statement of everyone needing a wake up call is rude, demoralizing, and unnecessary.

    7. AnonforToday*

      I mentioned this above, but the guy in the office next to me just had a baby. He saved up but the baby was born early and needed surgery. His wife is essential but working without pay. If the shutdown goes on for much longer, we are getting furloughed
      Exactly what is my coworker supposed to do, pull his son out of the hospital?

    8. MarsJenkar*

      The people affected by this the most are NOT the ones who are living above their means because they don’t know how to budget. The people most affected are those who are having to ration every dollar they get because they *don’t get enough to live on* (or barely get enough to live on) in the first place. These people CAN’T save money, or stock up on supplies in advance, because they use it all on their monthly needs–needs which aren’t always properly met.

      Your insinuation is presumptive and therefore rude.

  50. Urdnot Bakara*

    I really feel for all federal employees affected by this. Y’all are underappreciated, understaffed, and overworked as it is. I really liked Katy the Fed’s post on this, too. Thanks to Alison for sharing.

    Also, on a personal note… I’d be interested to hear from anyone who works at CIS how an extended shutdown is going to affect their operations. Just our luck, my spouse’s citizenship interview is supposed to be this month….

  51. DCGirl*

    My husband is a furloughed employee, and I work for a government contractor in the IT space. We are a two-income family with savings, so we’ll be ok, but we have deep sympathy for those who are not as fortunate as we are.

    The reality of staying home is really hitting home for him this week, now that the holidays are over, since he had some planned time off scheduled. He did have to go in for four hours on December 26, the first day the government was scheduled to be open after the shutdown began, to do whatever was necessary to shut down operations. In his case, as a paralegal, it meant working with the attorneys to file continuances on all the cases with a deadline in the next two weeks. He’s trying to keep busy with some tasks around the house, and I’ve tasked him with trying to use the remaining balance of the Flexible Spending Account before the deadline of January 31. Today is an eye exam and new glasses, which he needed.

    And don’t get me started on the idea that his work can’t be that important if he was furloughed. His team works on civil cases, and priority goes to the side of the office that works on criminal cases because people would literally be sitting in jail waiting for the shutdown to end otherwise.

    1. DCGirl*

      Also, my employer is having meetings on what to do if we don’t get paid, ranging from letting people use their leave to letting people go on LWOP status to actually laying people off.

  52. Urdnot Bakara*

    On a separate note…. I’m disappointed by how many comments I’m seeing here that are like, “Well, government employees should have saved more/cut down on discretionary spending/etc.” Really insensitive and not at all helpful!

      1. Urdnot Bakara*

        thanks! i’ve had it for a while now, but i think i specifically changed it to this to reply to the person who comments as kalros the mother of all thresher maws!

    1. Murphy*

      I know. I was reading #ShutdownStories on twitter and I found people who are going through those tweets and replying pretty much that directly to furloughed employees. Ugh.

      1. Urdnot Bakara*

        I can only find 2 but I thought I saw more than that. One is a few comments above this one. So maybe I was mistaken, but unhelpful all the same!

        1. Amber Rose*

          3 out of the currently 207 comments is still only around one percent though. It’s not SO many, though more than is ideal for sure.

          1. Urdnot Bakara*

            Thanks, Alison. I apologize for making it a bigger deal than it actually was. Maybe I was remembering something else. I’m sure we can all use the reminder to have empathy, though!

    2. Lora*

      I know, this is awful. Even seeing one comment is too many. When people are laid off from private jobs through no fault of their own, I would hope nobody would be so callous as to tell them they should have saved more! Most folks have been through the Great Recession 2008 – 2013 and should know how miserable it is to be laid off from an industry not considered worthy of a bailout despite your best efforts to train for a job and do good work, only to have to piece together a bunch of crummy part-time jobs hoping something will open up in your field again.

  53. The Cosmic Avenger*

    My spouse and I are both Federal contractors for the same OpDiv that is fully funded, so we’re in no danger, but plenty of our coworkers (on other contracts) and former coworkers are furloughed.

    I think the most misunderstood part is how even an hour of shutdown can cause a lot of unnecessary expense. Prior to the shutdown, budgets may not be done, purchases may be postponed or done in smaller batches, all because of the uncertainty of the budget. For the last one, our agency alone spends dozens if not hundreds of hours preparing web sites, phone lines, and other public-facing channels for the shutdown: website and voicemail notices that nothing can be responded to until the shutdown is over (and then there will be a backlog, so please just don’t leave a message/send an email until the shutdown is over!), and then undoing all that when it’s over. It’s a huge waste of money and resources.

    1. Guacamole Bob*


      The daycare hassles that I posted about above happen for every shutdown, and every time one is looming a bunch of people spend time calling around to arrange care for their children, even if the shutdown is averted at the last minute. The logistical crap that goes along with even a brief shutdown is a big expensive waste of time.

      I had a friend who was a scientist at the USDA in 2013 and they lost experiments – workers were allowed to care for lab animals (and maybe plants) but not to continue research protocols. I also remember hearing about an Antarctic expedition, years in the planning, that had to be cancelled.

      I know someone whose son is in the Peace Corps, and if the shutdown goes on long enough the volunteers may have to be recalled from their posts, which are often fairly remote villages that are time-consuming and expensive to travel to and from. It’s just a huge waste of resources.

  54. CookieWookiee*

    My husband and I are both furloughed, so we have no money coming in till this is over. We are very, very fortunate that we have enough in savings to last us a few months, but I know that’s not the norm. I have a lot of coworkers and friends whom this is severely impacting.

    It’s extremely frustrating. I hate being used as a political pawn. The extra nap time is nice, but honestly? I’d rather be getting my work done, and getting paid. It took us weeks to get out from under the backlog last furlough.

    My only question is, does anyone know how this affects our health insurance? If the deduction’s not being taken out since we’re not getting paid, do we not have insurance? Are we supposed to pay them directly? (Last time I think we were furloughed in the middle of a pay period, so the deductions were taken out and I received a $47 paycheck.)

    1. MommyMD*

      The only one with the answer to this is your employer/insurance carrier. I pray the coverage isn’t affected.

    2. Not All*

      Insurance proceeds as normal…you don’t need to make alternate payment arrangements & our coverage continues. BUT the back amount owed comes out in a lump sum our first check back. Not a big deal as long as we get backpay, but absolutely devastating if we don’t.

      1. kelmarander*

        Federal HR lady here who can confirm this. Health insurance coverage through FEHB is not impacted, but be prepared for your first paycheck to have all of the premiums you would have been paying pulled out at once.

        Also, all leave is cancelled, so you may end up having to apply for restoration of leave if you hit the use-or-lose ceiling.

        It’s super-detailed, but the OPM guidance your HR people are using (if they are working) has details on benefits or pay issues. It is at

        1. CookieWookiee*

          Thanks very much! I appreciate you taking the time to comment and confirm. Yeah that first paycheck back is going to be a doozy.

          I’ve never been able to accrue use or lose, so I’m ok there. I feel badly for coworkers who were scheduled to retire this month, I hope they won’t have to push their dates back!

    3. De Minimis*

      I was considered essential through the 2013 shutdown, so I don’t know what it was like for people who were furloughed. If you [or anyone else reading] were furloughed then, when did you get paid once the shutdown ended? I know in my case I got a direct deposit in my account the day after the shutdown ended for the entire previous pay period where I’d been working unpaid. Did that not happen for people who were furloughed? I’m thinking maybe they had to pay us immediately since we had been working the entire time.

      1. CookieWookiee*

        IIRC it took a pay period or two? Something like that. I don’t remember it being immediate.

        1. De Minimis*

          I’m betting that’s what the deal was then, it was delayed for people who were furloughed during the shutdown. Yikes. That is way worse.

      1. CookieWookiee*

        Thanks. From above comments it looks like we’ll be ok.

        I’m not really happy with, or trusting of, OPM right now, after their tone-deaf letters to creditors. (“Yeah, hey, Wells Fargo? Can I wash the windows at my local branch as partial payment for my mortgage? I’ll have my permanently-on-retainer family lawyer contact you with details.”) I’m surprised the union hasn’t sent us any updates or information, actually.

  55. Slick Willy*

    These shutdowns are not without precedent. For that reason, I am surprised at people employed by the federal government who risk living paycheck-to-paycheck and are seriously worried because they are without pay right now. The common wisdom of keeping a healthy nest-egg / safety net is just as appropriate, if not more so, for government employees as it is for everyone else.

    That said, I shake my head when I hear of people talking about job security with state and federal jobs. What is job security without income security?

        1. gmg22*

          I suspect Jane’s point is that you are making a very pie-in-the-sky assumption about people’s ability to accumulate a nest egg given issues of flat pay and rising cost of living. This isn’t the workers’ fault, though your comment suggests that maybe it kind of is. It’s not. It’s the fault of the elected officials who refuse to work together to fix it.

        2. AnonforToday*

          What about the janitors who are never getting paid? They’re contractors. I am a fed and have quite a bit of money saved but I am a high level GS. Many feds are paid less than average.

          Government work is supposed to be reliable. We aren’t working at some underfunded startup.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      These statements are unkind and obtuse. To your second question… are you saying that people shouldn’t take government jobs because there’s a risk they may face furloughs and shutdowns? How do you think things run? Not in some government-free utopia, but here and now.

      To your first point, the “risk” of living paycheck to paycheck is simply a reality for a whole lot of people, many of whom are employed by the federal government. I’m not one who tells people to count their blessings or whatever, but while it’s very lovely that you have a nice cushion so you wouldn’t be in dire straits, there is a reality that this is not possible for many, many people, so some kindness would go a lot further than a lecture. “Why didn’t you save your minimum wage salary?” is a terrible question in the best of times.

      1. Slick Willy*

        My point about job/income security is that given the political turbulence we are in and have been in, federal jobs should maybe be considered with the same risk as Silicon Valley startups or other new business ventures. Is that kind of ridiculous? Yes, it is, and I would join you in blaming lawmakers for that.

        1. gmg22*

          I suspect that if this goes on people will indeed begin to conclude that government work is not a safe bet, so to speak. That won’t actually improve the function of the government, unfortunately — quite the contrary, as more qualified people are lost to the private sector.

        2. Lady Kelvin*

          At Silicon Valley startups you are paid well to offset that uncertainty and risk. Go look at the pay-scale for federal workers. People don’t work for the federal government to get rich.

          1. Slick Willy*

            Then, why? If “cushy government job” isn’t a thing, and guaranteed continuous income isn’t a thing (as seen repeatedly), then the time is NOW to go tackle the desperate job market. There are so many unfilled job openings.

            Yes, I hope that this furlough nonsense causes the government workers to leave in droves, so that the fed has to participate in the free job market just like everyone else and pay decent wages to attract workers.

            1. JustaTech*

              And where exactly is one supposed to find a stable job, Mr Willy? Grant funded job, grant was pulled, laid off. Corporate job, stock market got mad, didn’t get laid off but most did.

              So if government is out, and the private sector is out and non-profits are out where exactly does that leave everyone who isn’t in a direct-to-consumer industry? It’s not like you can work for yourself if you’re a scientist.

    2. Amber Rose*

      OK, what should I give up so I can create a nest egg? Food? Water? Heat? Would you recommend that parents give up diapers, maybe?

      (Most) People don’t live paycheck to paycheck because they’re spending all their money on fun things. They live that way because after the bills and necessities of life are paid for, nothing is left. As for the risk of working for government, A Job is better than No Job 99% of the time, and sometimes government is what you end up with. The government employs many thousands of people.

      At any rate, you really need to check yourself here, and maybe think deeply about not lecturing people who are suffering because you have lived a more privileged life than them.

    3. Lady Kelvin*

      Do you know how much the government pays? Its not much. Where I live the poverty line is 93k for a family of four. Seriously. And that is ~30k more than what a PhD level employee in our agency makes. So to think that people have a choice sometimes is ridiculous. Not to mention all the folks working for minimum wage who won’t get back pay and for whom missing a paycheck can mean homelessness. Check your privilege.

    4. Spreadsheets*

      The average active duty non-rate in the US Coast Guard receives $22,632 annually in base pay. Many coasties qualify for government assistance several ranks about this… how exactly would you suggest people save under those circumstances?

    5. Tuxedo Cat*

      People in this country, even if we’re out of recession times, have all sorts of circumstances that don’t allow them to save very much. An accident or an emergency can wipe your savings fast. I’m talking about people who have high levels of education.

      Plus there’s the whole thing with they don’t know how long this will last. It could end today, it could end months from now. There’s no guarantee of either situation.

    6. Rena*

      You may not be wrong, but this is profoundly unhelpful right now. A tale of two furloughed feds:

      My close friend and I are both at the start of our careers with the federal government, less than a year in. We graduated from the same program at the same time with pretty much the same qualifications, and we both lived off savings while we finished school. Hired into GS-5 and GS-7 positions in different agencies .

      I’m lucky enough to be financially stable because we live off of my spouse’s income. However, if it weren’t for my spouse’s support, I wouldn’t have been able to take this job. I couldn’t support myself in my high COL area on just my income. I love the work I do, and I feel incredibly lucky to work for the agency and people I work for, but I could easily be making 50% more in a private industry. I also have no guarantee that my job will last longer than my 4 year term and it’s incredibly difficult to get hired permanently, so not really much job security either.

      I help my friend with his budget. He’s single and supports himself paycheck to paycheck. When I started helping him with his budget, I was convinced he was just making poor choices and we’d get him turned around in no time. Now, almost a year later, he finally has a tiny emergency fund saved up … that just got emptied for an emergency. He just doesn’t make enough to save more than a tiny bit each month after critical expenses, and believe me, we’ve scoured the budget for areas to cut.

      So sure, yes, he should keep a healthy safety net. But sometimes you just don’t make enough, especially at the low pay grades, to have one. And then it’s utter BS that your job can just stop paying you because people thousands of miles away (who are still getting paid, btw) are throwing tantrums, using your job to play politics, and adding salt to the wound by cancelling your COL pay raise on top of it all.

      1. Liet-Kinda*

        I skipped some paychecks this summer, as there was a gap between my previous and current position. I had a cushion, I had unemployment, I made it work. But the reason I keep a cushion is, for example, if I have to replace my car due to an accident, or if my child needs healthcare, or if my home is damaged by extreme weather, or if I get laid off and need to bridge a gap. I do not keep a cushion so I can pay the mortgage while an odious man-child throws a tantrum to keep an asinine promise he made to garner the votes of morons.

    7. This Daydreamer*

      Most of the people I know love paycheck to paycheck and not a damned one of them chose it.

    8. JustaTech*

      This is a super unhelpful comment. 1) It’s not like anyone can do anything about the savings they don’t have right now. 2) Sometimes life happens and even if you do your best to live below your means and save a string of bad luck can put you in a terrible place.

      Accidents, health crises, natural disasters, family, just plain bad luck; all of those could drain your savings.

      It’s important to remember how much luck plays into everyone’s financial situation.

    9. Annette*

      This comment should be removed, per Allison’s moderator note at the top.

      Rude and unhelpful.

      1. Slick Willy*

        The author added her comment later, after I posted mine. She set the time earlier so that it would float to the top of the comments. That makes it look like I disregarded her post, but it wasn’t there at the time.

    10. J.*

      If I were you, I would be more surprised and angry at the federal government paying their employees poverty level (or close to poverty level) wages to provide essential services than at the employees who have to suffer the consequences of this shutdown, so.

    11. Observer*

      So, what exactly were you trying to accomplish with this comments?

      How exactly do you think people in HCOL areas or on low salaries are supposed to avoid living paycheck to paycheck? Are you suggesting that the only people who work for the Federal government are people who are independently wealthy of have rich spouses who are willing to support them?

  56. wayward*

    Curious how many attempts there will be to recruit fed employees with access to classified data who may be facing financial pressure due to the furlough.

    1. Lora*

      I suspect it would take a while, but I was also thinking about the 1990s jokes about trading a sack of potatoes for a YAK-28 or crates of Kalashnikovs.

  57. Anon from the Bronx*

    I want to give a major shout out to the TSA employees. I just traveled to the West Coast & back visiting family. While the lines were long, they were typical for this time of year & all the TSA employees were polite & hardworking getting people through security.

  58. Phony Genius*

    I’m curious if this also affects health insurance. Are premiums being paid? If not, could the company providing the health insurance to federal employees cut them off?

    1. De Minimis*

      I can’t remember the details, but yes, premiums are still being paid so that’s one less worry.

    2. Fed Bae*

      Fed employees keep their health insurance, but the premiums will (purportedly) be deducted from their next actual paycheck. So even once the shutdown is over, that first paycheck back will be… not great.

      1. DCGirl*

        +1. That first paycheck back may be all health insurance premiums for us, and it could be months to get back pay.

        1. De Minimis*

          No idea if it may be different this time, or if it may be be dependent on agency, but for the 2013 shutdown we were paid everything we were owed the day after the shutdown ended.

          It also might be different for people who had to work unpaid through the shutdown [as I did.] Anyway, I don’t recall any delay in getting paid once the shutdown was over.

          1. Fed Bae*

            Maybe it is agency dependent. This is my first shutdown so I can only go by the information they have provided, but they stated fairly plainly that we can expect to have the missed premiums deducted from our next paycheck, at least. Beyond that, who knows.

            1. De Minimis*

              Someone explained it to me elsewhere, it sounds like it is different for employees who had to work through the shutdown vs. those who were furloughed.

    3. BitterContractor*

      I’m a contractor and in addition to not receiving back pay for days I was not allowed to work, I will receive a letter telling me my health insurance is lapsing any day now. My contract company cannot bill the government for time not worked, so they will in turn not pay their contractors or their benefits.

      1. AnotherFed*

        How much do you need to keep your health insurance for a month? I am a furloughed federal employee as well but maybe some of us here can help you out. I know if this goes on for another month, I will be in the same boat as I will be expected to pony up my share of the health/dental/vision benefits. I have a little bit left I can help you with.

  59. DC Marvel*

    I am a federal employee that will, thankfully, still be paid for the next few pay periods. My brother, however, will not. He’s saved quite a bit of money and his fiance can pick up extra shifts (she’s a RN), so they and their 6 month old baby should be fine. We have discussed how everyone’s situation is different and most of his colleagues aren’t so lucky. This is difficult for many people and their families. To many federal employees, this is indicative of how little we’re valued. We are people with families, homes, bills, and other responsibilities. I hope this can be resolved soon.

  60. CUAttorney*

    I just wanted to let everyone know that many credit unions are giving interest free loans to federal employees to help get through this shut down. Its not the best thing ever, clearly, but it can help.

  61. Tigger*

    DC born and raised here. While our family has no one in the federal government, they were my dad’s biggest clients so he wasn’t paid during shutdowns and all of our friends and neighbors are feds so we have been through this before.
    To echo all the comments above call your banks and landlords. They might be able to work with you. Also, I don’t know about this time around but I know that in the past Navy Federal had shutdown assistance loans.

    Keep yourself busy. Knitting and craft stores have free classes for feds. My neighbors also volunteered at S.O.M.E to pass the time.

    I am so sorry this is happening to y’all. Hopefully, this comes to an end soon.

    1. CookieWookiee*

      Yes, at least I have my knitting and Netflix to keep me busy! ‘Course I’m forced to shop the stash, but it’ll keep me from hitting SABLE that much sooner!

      1. Tigger*

        I know a few people who picked up knitting in 13 just to keep their hands busy. So many handmade scarfs and hats. I hope you are hanging in there!

  62. NextSteps*

    Federal Civil Servants, thank you for your service. I’m sorry for the disrespect and economic uncertainty furlough brings to you (and your families).

  63. church lady*

    Not a federal employee, but I know of families in the northern VA suburbs who were hit hard by the last shut-down in 2013. Had to beg family members for money for groceries and mortgage so they wouldn’t end up paying enormous penalties or worse. This messing with people’s lives is despicable.

  64. Lady Kelvin*

    I’m a contractor and furloughed. My options are to take my leave or to take leave without pay. I’m also giving birth in 6 weeks so I can either take my leave now and get paid or take my leave during my maternity leave and get paid. Thankfully my husband is no longer a contractor (for a different agency) so he actually gets to continue working and being paid for this shutdown. The real hardship is paying for my health insurance, if I don’t come up with the money now and paid ahead of time my company will cancel it, which, being pregnant, isn’t exactly great for us.

  65. fed-adjacent librarian*

    I work for a federal organization that is partially trust funded, and am so amazingly fortunate to be in a trust funded position rather than a federal one so I can continue to work and be paid for it, but the skeleton crew in my office is depressingly small. I’m fielding the phone calls to see if we’re still open, and to explain why, so I really appreciate all of the support being given to furloughed workers.

    I just wish it didn’t come with so many complaints about our shut down of the free museums. (Not aimed at commenters here). We know, we hate it too. We are absolutely distressed by it, and furious, and all the other emotions that come with this situation. It hurts to see people complain specifically about the free museums. Not on the level of “well you should save money” but like the tragedy is that they can’t see some sparkly rocks or a panda bear and not that there is minimal to no support for the arts and humanities and now we also get to hear people complain about us not doing our jobs like its on purpose.

    1. rolling in the deeeeeeeeep*

      Yeah, it feels really petty. “Oh no, I can’t go to a museum!” That’s nice, some people can’t eat. And a whole bunch of people are working without being paid for it.

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      Please don’t take it personally or read too much into it. People are gonna complain when their lives are impacted, however minimal the impact may be. People complain about bad weather, about traffic, about hangnails. No, it’s not a tragedy, but they are disappointed that they don’t get to see the museum, which they may have been looking forward to, and it may have even been a significant or key part of their vacation plans. If I was supposed to be vacationing in a national park now, but it was shut down, I would be complaining too, but I wouldn’t blame the park rangers/staff.

  66. I coulda been a lawyer*

    This is my relatives first furlough and she contacted her insurance co to make sure her coverage hadn’t/wouldn’t lapse. Theirs has not, but those with different coverage might be affected so they should probably try to find out. I’ll know that I wouldn’t want to find out when I picked up a prescription or something.

  67. Tisme*

    I’m a Brit, but wanted to pop on to wish all of you who are affected (or who know people who are) the best and hope that this furlough ends asap.

  68. jk*

    I’m so sorry you have to go through this guys. Do you know if they will give you back pay or is it just radio silence?

    I work for the state now after being in the private sector since the start of my career. I had a particularly bad time at my last private sector job, lots of lay-offs, not me though (I wish it had been with all the stress). I literally went into hibernation and a deep depression and didn’t spend any money for 2 years until I left! I was traumatized due to the stress and the lack of control in my life.

    So glad I got out but you can’t predict this stuff. It can be private sector, state or fed – any field is subject to leaving employees high and dry. You’d just think the government of a country would take better care of its employees, right?

    Are there special protections in place for federal workers when this happens? Do companies pause your payments while you wait? I mean.. it’s not just one or two people it’s tens of thousands who are impacted by this.

    Sending love and hugs to all, especially during the Christmas period and new year xo

    1. Liet-Kinda*

      It is reasonable to assume that Congress will approve back-pay, as they always have done so in the past. But there’s absolutely no guarantee or requirement that they do so.

  69. Fed Anon*

    I’m at an agency that’s thankfully funded, but a lot of our work depends on working with other agencies, which is going to get more challenging as time goes on. Our higher-ups already told us that we won’t be penalized for any resulting delays, but the shutdown does reach onto areas of the government that are funded. I imagine it’s also having an effect on hiring – I know at least one former intern who decided a federal job is “too risky” because of the uncertainty around shutdowns. And government jobs used to be known as the less-risky option!

    My husband and I are both feds and he’s furloughed, but at least I’ve still got income coming in, plus we’re in ok financial standing that we could wait for the backpay. I feel terrible for those who really depend on every paycheck.

  70. Tuxedo Cat*

    I do research and am reliant on contracts through federal funding agencies. Some folks submitted grants with me written in or were about to do so- while I have contracts that are fine, this could screw things up for me for awhile because it’s unclear how long it’ll take NASA or NSF to get back into grant review mode and that whole process. I know there were no guarantees that the folks will receive the funds, but I assume at least few will.

  71. GreenDoor*

    I am a public employee, at the local public school district level and we get a lot of the stereotypes that Katie the Fed mentioned in the older post Alison linked to. I think it’s shameful that public employees are, once again, being used as pawns in another game of political one-upmanship. But if any good can come from this, I hope it’s that it’s an eye-opener for non-government folks as to their tax dollars pay for. The Feds touch just about every sector – education, the arts, science and medicine, law enforcement and public safety, historic and environmental preservation, just to name a few. People love to rally against those who “live on the government” but in reality, we ALL benefit from federally funded services of some kind. I hope al of you dedicated Feds are back to work before too long!

  72. Nausicaa*

    I feel so awful for everyone who is affected by this shutdown… I really hope this gets resolved soon, because this is so atrocious.

    I realize this is really selfish to even be bringing up, but I got a job offer from a position in the US federal government right before the shutdown. I was really excited for it, but seeing how badly this is affecting people and knowing that we likely have at least 2 more years of our psychopath-in-chief, is making me seriously reconsider joining. And if I did, I wouldn’t let my spouse join the feds as well, because if both of us were furloughed we would be dead in the water with all of our student loans.

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      Shutdowns happen regardless of political party, so don’t make this a political thing — even though I’m not a fan of the Cheeto either. The longest shutdown was 21 days in 95/96 under Clinton. Obama had a 17 day shutdown. It’s a bipartisan event when politicians decide to throw tantrums and use federal employees and the budget as pawns.

      1. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

        This is the first time we’ve had a shutdown when the President’s party controlled both houses of Congress, and vetoed a bill he’d said he would sign. That’s not a bipartisan problem.

      2. Nausicaa*

        That is a good point that these things happen with either office – you’re right I shouldn’t have tied the entire problem of government shutdowns to the president. There’s definitely enough other things to call him a psychopath about.

  73. Meyers and Briggs are not real doctors*

    All I want to say is how insulting it is to us actual professional handyman/woman peoples that untrained folks could do our job. My late uncle was a master carpenter and the suggestion by potus to just “offer to do carpentry or electrica handywork” is simply daft and a bunch of nonsens. In reality this not only theoretically threatens our jobs, 1)
    – with out of work folks who want a q uick job that are not staying long enough for us to actually train and grow on our field, that would be a waste of our resources overall 2) it makes us laborers sound like our jobs are easy and simple to pick up and learn in a short period of time , when it took us years to learn our trade in a safe (!!) and correct and efficient way. 3) competition is great … but that comment was just silly.

    (sorry for typos phones suckbut hopefully my point will come across)
    (also for the record i am not a gop member and am not trying to mke a statement on my field (masonry) political, but across the board my colleagues from all parties/political bkgds feel similarly about this being insulting.)
    (not trying to derail but I and my clients want work done safely, correctly, and efficiently and this helps no one.)

    1. Meyers and Briggs are not real doctors*

      if this comment isnt appropriate here, feel free to delete. My sympathies to any human out of work.

    2. CUAttorney*

      I agree completely. Who would accept that kind of work from someone untrained? It takes years and skill to do that kind of thing well! The suggestion was completely illogical. People are professionals at their profession for a reason.

    3. JustaTech*

      I fully agree! I mean maybe, just maybe, a person who is skilled in other areas could do a decent job of painting (inside). But electrical? Heck no! That stuff is dangerous! If you screw up painting maybe you have to replace a floor or carpet. If you screw up electrical work you could die or burn down the building or both. Electricians are licensed for a reason.

      1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

        I was worried to post my comment here, so thank you for the validation.

        4) I forgot to say I also feel it promotes an “Us Versus Them” mentality and the US is so polarized right now we reeeealy don’t need more of that. Plenty of that going on upthread, for example.

        My opinions on federal workers or unions or politics aside, humans have it hard enough in our economy, and that kind of talk absolutely does not help. Pitting Americans against each other like that, geez.

        I had a dream that potus became a blue collar worker and was shadowing people on a reality show (thanks falling asleep to youtube videos! lol) in different blue collar and/or dirty jobs and I woke up this morning laughing. Gotta find humor somewhere I guess. :/

    4. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Wow, I didn’t hear that remark. As if there isn’t any skill involved in carpentry or electrical work! That is such a bizarre thing to say.

      1. Meyers and Briggs are not real doctors*


        I apologize, it wasn’t potus

        The Office of Personnel Management tweeted a link to letter templates that can be sent to creditors, mortgage companies or landlords explaining financial difficulties for government workers during the shutdown.

        Feds, here are sample letters you may use as a guide when working with your creditors during this furlough. If you need legal advice please consult with your personal attorney.
        9:21 AM DEC 27 2018

        “As we discussed, I am a Federal employee who has recently been furloughed due to a lack of funding of my agency. Because of this, my income has been severely cut and I am unable to pay the entire cost of my rent, along with my other expenses,” the template for writing a letter to landlords read. “I will keep in touch with you to keep you informed about my income status and I would like to discuss with you the possibility of trading my services to perform maintenance (e.g. painting, carpentry work) in exchange for partial rent payments.”

        —Yup, way to make folks feel undervalued and unskilled! Unbelievable!
        …Or not :/
        Thanks a lot OPM!
        “Simple Rick”

    5. Light37*

      I completely agree. I was furloughed in 2013, and the idea of me trying to rewire a house/fix the plumbing/do serious carpentry would have terrified my landlady, with good reason. I am competent within my skill set, but this isn’t it, and 17 days wouldn’t even begin to scratch the surface when it comes to learning.

  74. Rachael*

    Just want to chime in and say sorry to everyone affected by this. I was reading the link Alison provided about what not to say to furloughed employees and I’ve seen “They’ll get paid eventually” and it infuriates me to no end.

    Paychecks stop. Bills and groceries don’t. I hope it gets settled soon.

  75. Anon Fed*

    My darling husband annoyed me today because of his stance on the shut-down. According to him, it is an OUTRAGE that federal employees who are being affected by this shut-down might be paid when the gov’t reopens. He thinks no work = no pay. Period. When I point out that it’s not the employees’ fault this is happening, he states that they choose to work for the feds so accept the risk.

    But here’s the thing: I’m a federal employee. And while my agency was already funded so I’m at work (and being paid), I’ve been furloughed before. And I’ve been furloughed and NOT paid (we were forced to take a one day off per pay period without pay for several months). I am SO aggravated by his lack of compassion, but fear that there are too many who share his viewpoint. It’s a relief to see so many folks here offering kindness and grace.

    1. Liet-Kinda*

      “they choose to work for the feds so accept the risk”

      People who think this way are frequently shitty human beings in other ways, so while I hate to insult someone’s spouse sight unseen….maybe keep an eye on that dude.

    2. DCGirl*

      So, you’re married to Rep. Mark Meadows of South Carolina, who is fond of stating that federal employees accept the risk of furloughs. I’m so sorry.

    3. Tuxedo Cat*

      That’s a stunning lack of empathy given how people are being affected by this. Does he have the same reaction if a police officer or soldier gets shot in the line of duty?

    4. LQ*

      Compassion is free. Showing some is also free. The emotional part of this is hard on a lot of people.

    5. rolling in the deeeeeeeeep*

      Some people seem to think we’re on strike and are expecting to be paid for striking. It’s not a strike. It’s a shutdown by management.

    6. Marillenbaum*

      I’m so sorry you are now widowed, because the explosion of anger caught DH in the blast radius.

  76. Diana Barry*

    Hi Everyone – sympathies to all those furloughed. I am Canadian and as part of my job occasionally interact with US Federal agencies. I hope you don’t mind, but could someone kindly point me to a link clarifying what is shut down? I tried to google this, but couldn’t find a defined open/closed list.

    1. CAA*

      I’m not sure there is a list. Things change day to day as agencies run out of previously appropriated funds. I think your best bet is to just call and if you get a voicemail, listen to it to see what that person’s or agency’s situation is.

      1. Diana Barry*

        Thanks a lot, that really helps, more than any article I’ve read. I just called one individual and their voicemail said they are not working due to lack of funding, your advice was spot on.
        Again so sorry for everyone impacted by this, especially if you’re unpaid, what a terrible stress. I hope this shutdown ends ASAP.

    2. fed-adjacent librarian*

      The best source of information for the specific agency you’re working with is going to be the agency itself, as there unfortunately is no one to work on compiling and updating such a list. If the agency website (or social media!) is not helpful (sometimes they aren’t) you can also check the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) list of contingencies (list of links to plans published by agencies, organizations, and instutitions funded by the US federal government and impacted by lack of appropriations: The plan for the agency you’re looking for may detail a point of contact or clarifying information about what is operational and what isn’t (these are usually PDF documents and may not have been updated after December 22, the links are annotated with the publication date or date of last update to the document).

      1. Diana Barry*

        Thank you! This is great and super-detailed, really appreciate it. It may even impress my bosses should they need to contact those agencies :)

      2. De Minimis*

        I’ve seen a lot of impacted agencies give brief announcements over social media [basically saying that they won’t be monitoring social media during the shutdown], that may be the fastest way to find out.

          1. Carlie*

            I’d love to see a major media outlet collect and publicize such a list, including all contractors and subcontractors, number of employees affected, updated every day as more agencies running of previous funding. That would add a lot of pressure to the situation – far too many people think “government shutdown” means a few upper middle class administrators in DC.

  77. Christy*

    This is my second long shutdown. I’m high graded and have savings so I’ll be fine. I’m getting a little bored but I’m filling my time. I’ve been going to the knitting classes in Alexandria at fibre space most days, and that’s helped to fill the time. My condo is getting tidier (shout-out to the Marie Kondo show on Netflix!) and cleaner so that’s good too.

    Back in 2013 I promised myself that next extended shutdown I’d fly to Orlando on points to visit my best friend and not come back until it’s over. I’m married now, and my wife is a funded fed, so I can’t quite do that, but I am flying down tomorrow and flying back on Monday. I’m really excited to fill that promise to myself and to see my friend for the first time since August. And the trip will be mostly free since my flight is free and my lodging is free and my friend works for the mouse so I can go there for free too.

    I had my first shutdown dream last night so it’s clear I’m starting to get sick of the time off. But I’m not worrying about it, because I can’t change it. I’m not stoked that I’ve spent $6000 on major expenses since the shutdown started (8 units of donor sperm for IUI and new brakes) but I have the money so I’m not going to delay the rest of my life.

    I will note that if we don’t end up getting back pay (I would be shocked, though) then I will fly into a rage.

  78. DCR*

    The thing I’m finding hardest is dealing with the boredom. ( I realize that I’m very lucky to not have to worry about rent/other expenses because I have an emergency fund. But the impact to my overall income if backpay is not authorized is a concern, especially if I have to signifantly spend down my emergency fund.) I’m trying not to spend much money, which has left me with literally nothing to do during the day. I thought about organizing around my place, but something about being off of work in this manner is leaving me demoralized. Now that my friends are back in town, I’m trying to spend some time with them in the evenings. Any I deas for things to do that are cheap/free?

    1. Person from the Resume*

      If I were furloughed I’d read books, binge watch TV, and exercise/ride my bike a lot more. I recommend hitting up the library for free books and DVDs. Many even have eBooks, eAudio books, and downloadable videos.

      But one of the things I think I don’t have enough time for is reading.

    2. DCR*

      Maybe it’s that it’s the loneliness thay sucks. I live alone, until recently all my friends were out of town for the holidays and now they are all working during the day. I’ve been reading books and watching tv … I need some human interactions!!!

      1. Oxford Comma*

        My library offers free workshops. Or even just going there physically so that you are around other people. Maybe something like that? I would recommend getting outside even if it’s just for a walk (assuming you’re in a part of the country where the weather is not too bad).

      2. Tuxedo Cat*

        Do you need in-person interactions or would online suffice? Niche topics on Reddit can be good for online interactions.

        Do you like any of your colleagues in a similar situation? Maybe you all could make a temp walking group

      3. LQ*

        The loneliness and isolation is incredibly hard. I’m a huge introvert and the emotional toll of the shutdown I went through really wrecked me (and I picked back up a very toxic relationship, ugh!), I LIKE being alone and it was hard on me.
        Library is a good thing. If you have any local (not fed funded) public museums now is a good time to get out to them. State and local parks. The weird little art museum or the world’s largest ball of twine type things can be good. Baking/cooking and sharing. Volunteering somewhere that has space for drop in volunteers. (I don’t have my list with me, but these are all sort of generic versions of things I have on my list, which specifically include things like visit every single library branch in my city, go to the big college campus and get a tour of a couple cool buildings and projects, do a “tourist” tour of my city, check on the open to the public lectures at college campuses.)

    3. Pennycrest*

      A few ideas: Volunteering at a local organization of your choice (extension office/4-H club, boys and girls club, humane society, religious organization, retirement communities always like people to read to residents, senior center, soup kitchen, homeless shelter, elementary schools: can use help from filing and sharpening pencils to shelving books), geo cache scavenger hunts, hiking, biking. One thing I found particularly helpful when I had an extended break between starting my new job was journaling and writing thank you/thinking of you notes to friends, family, and a few old/lost friends. It was a chance to clear my head and make sure I let people know I care about them. I also tackled various PHD’s (Projects Half Done) around my place. Good luck! :)

    4. Dragoning*

      I have a (fortunately, planned, with unemployment pay) furlough coming up this summer for a full 30 days.

      My plans thus far include:

      -clean my apartment
      -family is taking me to visit other family
      -visiting college friends
      -more writing

    5. Katie the Fed*

      My husband is furloughed but I’m not this time. He’s been awesome doing a ton of stuff around the house, getting it ready for the next baby, etc. But it’s boring and it sucks. I wish we could at least be together!

    6. Overeducated*

      Invite people over for board games, a movie, food? Brunch is the cheapest meal to cook in bulk.

  79. Catsonakeyboard*

    I also want to give emotional support to the non-govt employees who are impacted. I worked for a company that provided services (mostly training) to government agencies – when the 2013 shutdown hit, they ended up having to lay off half the company because the contracts had to be canceled/not paid and they couldn’t afford to make payroll (and the company itself actually ended up being sold because of it – there were other issues, but the lost of a major stream of revenue for a few weeks was the biggest component). Shutdowns impact more than people think.

  80. LuJessMin*

    My sister works for TSA and is considered an essential employee. My big worry for her is health insurance – her husband was just diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer. What are they going to do?

    1. Urdnot Bakara*

      Not a substitute for actual health insurance, but some thoughts I have as someone who used to work for a cancer org: they may want to try reaching out to a pancreatic cancer-focused nonprofit. I would suggest calling the Cancer Support Community Helpline (link in username). I used to refer patients to it all the time if they were in need of resources we didn’t have. In addition to having trained social workers on staff, they can also help redirect them to organizations at the national and local level who may be able to provide financial support, help them get discounted medications, provide free rides to treatment and lodging near treatment centers, etc., which could offset the financial burden for now.

    2. De Minimis*

      They should be okay, the health coverage doesn’t lapse while this is going on. There might be difficulty as far as her being able to get leave if she needs it, I know my employer did not allow any leave for any reason when we were shut down.

        1. De Minimis*

          This applies to people who aren’t furloughed and are working unpaid–I know for us they cancelled all pre-scheduled leave and wouldn’t grant any other leave. I know one person risked being disciplined for going AWOL because he left to attend a funeral.

          If I remember correctly, they had to do an executive order to allow us to be off on Columbus Day [which fell during the 2016y shutdown.] The idea apparently is during a shutdown, we have no funding in place, which means there’s no way to pay for leave. Or at least that’s how I understood it. And it may be handled differently depending on the individual decision-maker at each agency.

  81. soon tob former fed*

    I’m not a former fed yet, and I am indeed furloughed, not for the first time (since 1987). I just contacted both my senators and representative (all democrats) to let them know that using federal employees as pawns in a political fight is totally unacceptable, no matter which side you are on. Seeing them all smiling during the swearing-in this morning really buttered my biscuits. There is nothing to smile about for us!

    We returned to work pretty quickly in the past, and none of the other furloughs were during the holiday season. This one is different with the lengthy projected timeline. At least I don’t have to work and not get paid, but those who work (the “essentials”) know that they will get paid eventually. The rest of us have received our full pay in the past but Congress has to authorize it first (makes the “essentials” kind of angry).

    After you contact your congresscritters, I recommend that you file for unemployment in your state. In my state, it can be done online. There’s a catch though, because if you receive full back pay, you must refund any benefits paid out to you. It may still be worth it to file, for cash flow purposes. Although only a portion of your pay is replaced, that leaves less to obtain from other sources to cover basic expenses. I’m weighing whether or not its worth the trouble for me, as I don’t live paycheck to paycheck. I still am watching my expenditures very carefully. My heart really goes out to those that do live paycheck to paycheck.

    Don’t be ashamed to utilize food pantries or other sources of free/low cost food. There is also a form that can be sent to your creditors asking for forbearance, or you can just call and ask.

    We will get through this. Good luck to all my fellow public servants. We deserve better.

      1. De Minimis*

        It’s really hard to say. I’m still hopeful it may not go long into next week [they will officially have been shut down for an entire pay period after tomorrow.] Now that the holidays are over, more and more people are starting to see impacts so there may be more pressure to get it resolved.

        For reference, I believe the longest ever shutdown was 22 days.

        1. Nerdling*

          Yep, that one was in December 1995-January 1996. Combined with a brief shutdown in November 1995, the government was shut for 27 days total over the same issues. There’s definitely precedent somewhere for being shut down over the holidays and how everyone handles getting paid/being furloughed, but it’s been so long that I can’t think of a single agency still using the same timekeeping methods/systems. It’s been a PITA here.

          1. soon tob former fed*

            I’ve been around a long time (too long), so I forgot the duration of the 95/96 furlough. I don’t remember it being at holiday time, but I have forgotten a lot from twenty-plus years ago. I had a minor child then and definitely would have collected unemployment benefits. Timekeeping is totally effed up now. In my agency, the furlough started in the middle of a pay period (we stayed open a week later than most), and OPM guidance requires that we get paid for the week before the furlough took effect, even if the payday is afterwards. My manager didn’t approve time for this pay period though, so I’m waiting for a response to my inquiry about this. I also have use-or-lose leave that will need to be reinstated (scheduled leave is cancelled during a furlough). It’s a mess.

            1. Nerdling*

              I think after a while, all the disappointment runs together and makes you forget the duration of that stuff. I’ve been fortunate to be excepted/essential each time, so I haven’t had a sustained period of not-working to look back on, so it all blends into a background of Days I Was At Work.

              That’s seriously unfortunate that your pay is even more messed up! I hope your boss can get it sorted out quickly!

          2. Jaid_Diah*

            I just joined the agency in March back then, but on furlough in autumn as a seasonal employee. I never realized there was a shutdown back then. That’d explain the extremely long furlough I was on. Fun times.

          1. AnotherFed*

            The IRS folks are being called back as of Monday the 7th, we are “excepted” now that filing season is upon us.

    1. soon tob former fed*

      I project the timeline to be lengthy because I see no urgency on any side of the table, this seems to be a hill to die on. In the past it seemed like all parties knew that a shutdown was a bad, bad thing. I don’t get that feeling now.

      1. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

        The President said today that he will keep it shut down for “months or even years”. Given this kind of extreme posturing, I’m afraid it might be a while.

        1. sstabeler*

          On the other hand, it’s been suggested by Pat Roberts (the senior Republican Senator) that Senate Repuiblicans are close to being willing to override Trump vetoing any attempt to end the shutdown, so Trump might find he has no choice. I can honestly see it needing that- and Trump isn’t going to take that well if you ask me.

  82. BlueWolf*

    Thankfully not a Fed, but I live and work in the DC metro. I feel bad for everyone affected. The shutdown has ripple effects beyond just federal employees not being paid. There have been lots of local stories about restaurants and other businesses who are worried about having less business due to the shutdown. You also have to consider less tourism dollars with the museums being closed. Hoping that it is resolved soon.

  83. Donna*

    I am furloughed.

    What bothers me the most is that most people don’t know the correct terminology. No-one is “essential”. You are either “excepted” or “non-excepted”. So it is extremely irritating to hear that if I am not essential, I am not needed and should be eliminated/fired. The media (both news and social) are particarly bad at this. Jeff Neil has an excellent explanation about this ( I correct people all the time but until someone corrects it in major media, readers won’t get it.

    1. soon tob former fed*

      Office of Personnel Management guidance indeed uses excepted and non-excepted to designate furlough status (there is also exempt, but they are not really furloughed and continue to work and get paid as usual). Mea culpa for using essential, however, my agency does it and probably shouldn’t. I do wonder why it hasn’t been corrected in the major media as it does lead to speculation that us non-essential folks should be taken off the payroll, which is nonsense. Probably sounds more news-worthy and dramatic to say essential and non-essential, excepted and non-excepted may seem too government jargon-like. Essentially (pun intended) essential folks are excepted and non-essential folks are non-excepted. No matter what they call me, I wish they would call me back to work and pay me.

    2. LQ*

      I agree about the “essential” language. It is what people use or “critical”. It leads to so much “Well if it’s not essential then the government shouldn’t do it at all!” bs.

      People forced to work for free to keep the government functioning
      People who are not allowed to do the critical work they need to do to keep the government functioning

    3. Curious Lurker*

      I believe the incorrect terminology came from the 2013 shutdown, and if not, then a threat of shutdown prior to that. I recall colleagues taking exception to being told they were not “essential” and would not be working. (I also remember thinking they were children, because it wasn’t the ‘not working’ part that upset them, it was the label. As if anyone would have died if they weren’t working?)

      1. Curious Lurker*

        Er, I want to stipulate that I knew of *very*few* people who took issue with it… most people were more concerned about the possible lapse in pay checks…

      2. LQ*

        I doubt that the not working part didn’t bother them, it’s just you have so much stacked on top of on top of on top of. And then you have jerks telling you that you shouldn’t have a job at all because you’re “not essential” yeah. I want to not be labeled that way. That label makes people go after you and the work you do.

        If only people who save lives should have jobs then only people who save lives should have jobs, at all ever anywhere in the world…, and you should only get paid each day you save a life, otherwise what are you really doing? Nothing that you do matters enough to spend money on…

        That’s not how it works. You’re under all this stress of how do I pay rent and buy groceries and now someone’s going to tell you that unless you save lives you aren’t essential? Hate it. I was absolutely one of those people who complained about that label and it was because of the you don’t save lives so you don’t matter mentality that just grates on you as a human, as a person who works to help your government and who does their best to make the world a better place. It’s not that it wasn’t the other things, it was just the cherry on the shit sundae.

        And if that makes me a child. So be it.

  84. Susana*

    I’m on the Hill (not a government employee). Also have friends who are Secret Service, and a partner who is now furloughed. Not sure what’s worse – not working, not knowing if you’ll get back pay, or working under threat f being fired but NOT being paid. Here in the Capitol, we have police who are quite literally putting their lives on the lines to protect members of Congress (who are getting paid). Same for Secret Service protecting the president and family. It’s a disgrace.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      I feel this. Boyfriend and I are at the same agency, both furloughed. I’m KonMari-ing my apartment to keep sane (and binge-watching GBBO to self-soothe), but it is driving me crazy.

    1. De Minimis*

      Where I used to work, I think most people were probably grades 4-5. Those were the supply clerks, the medical assistants, and the general office workers.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      In fairness, that’s without the locality adjustment. But yeah I have a number of GS-07s -09s who don’t make a ton.

      1. soon tob former fed*

        I have a friend who is a GS5-10 and has been working for the IRS for twenty-five years! She lives paycheck to paycheck and was hardly making it before the furlough. There are many feds not making a ton of money.

        1. AnotherFed*

          I am a GS8 and after 11 years am finally on paper making what I was at a telecommunications company. I say on paper because our illustrious gov’t has in these years refused COLA increases, increased our share of payment for benefits, taken out more for retirement that I have no say over and on and on, so my take home is less than it was when I began.

      2. Jaid_Diah*

        GS-07/10 here. I’m comfortable, but don’t have an expensive lifestyle (children, car payments, health issues), so managed to save. A friend is an 11, but with health issues and other life stuff…yeah there’s a lot of worries there.

    3. Light37*

      I was the equivalent of a GS7 as a contractor and did OK, but I was single, willing to live cheaply, and frankly damned lucky that the few emergencies I had I was able to cover, plus my parents were willing and able to help me out. I was, at least to some extent, on Easy Mode. Not everyone has that luxury.

  85. Pastor V*

    If you need to get out of the house check with your church (or really any local church if you don’t have one of your own). Most have projects/ministries that could use help. Also, lots of churches have benevolence funds that might be able to help with rent/food/untilites.

  86. Megan*

    As a non-American, I’m kind of interested in the comments about the government making people work without pay (like TSA agents that some commenters were talking about).

    How does that work? Doesn’t that violate labour laws around getting paid? How can they make you come into work without pay?

    (Not looking to start a fight and not bagging America. Just curious about the system and the legal side of it, that’s all.)

    1. Curious Lurker*

      The Federal government of the USA exempts itself from numerous labor laws. I’m not a lawyer or HR rep so I can’t tell you more than that, but that’s the summary of what I’ve learned since becoming a reader of this site. :)

      And they can “make” you by taking disciplinary action on you when everyone returns to work. Plus, if Congress decides to *not* give the furloughed people back-pay (hasn’t happened yet, but there’s never a guarantee that it will), then the only ones who will be paid at all are those who worked some number of hours. (Because to not pay for work done when the government does become funded *would* break laws.) In that way, it can be an incentive for people to cooperate.

      1. Megan*


        I love how the entity that makes the laws excuses themselves from following said laws.

        Thanks for the insight:)

        1. D'Arcy*

          In addition to federal exemptions from labor laws, members of the military are not covered by *any* labor laws since they are not employees.

          (This is a practical necessity — military duty is, among other things, inherently unsafe in a way that is totally incompatible with civilian labor laws.)

  87. Bookworm*

    I was an intern for an agency at the time of the last shutdown. I personally probably saved money by not having to travel, but I’m so sympathetic. Good luck to all in this situation.

  88. Horatio*

    So sorry to everyone affected. My heart goes out to all of you and your families.

    It’s not much, but if anyone furloughed in the Seattle area is fighting off boredom, I teach acting workshops/do some coaching and would be happy to host a free class for federal employees if anyone needs a reason to get out of the house!

  89. Job seeker*

    I have a shutdown question – what does it mean that everify is down? Has hiring been held up in the private sector or other levels of government?
    I saw a job posted by the GSA with a posting time line of dec 20 to jan 3. Guess that’s not being filled!

    1. CUAttorney*

      My understanding is that the application deadlines apply, but that it won’t be looked at until after the shutdown (at least for positions I’ve seen)

  90. Prince John Albert*

    I just sent a text to my acting supervisor to express my gratitude for the work being done during the shutdown. The way it all works, there’s only one person covering all of the West Coast.

    I’ve worked with the federal government for over 10 years and this is the very first shutdown where I’ve been instructed not to report to the office. I’ve always been an excepted employee, due to my work being industry-funded, and at times I felt very resentful of employees who were ordered to stay home. I saw it as ultimately getting a paid vacation, while I got no recognition for unpaid work.

    Now that I am the one not reporting to the office, I sympathize with the prospect of not knowing when I will be called back to work. A coworker of mine was just called back to work and will have to travel internationally during the shutdown. There’s no telling when the personal expenses relative to that trip (taxis, meals, etc.) will be reimbursed. So my coworker might have to spend money overseas with no current paycheck to draw from.

    Considering that, I can not plan anything extensive because the same thing could happen to me. I have an international trip pending as well, and I am expecting to be called back to the office to perform the work relating to that trip. I’ll have to spend money I don’t have, and endure not receiving a paycheck for future work until the shutdown ends.

    Another thing I don’t see mentioned in the comments is that federal employees are completely forbidden by ethics laws to work for regulated industry during the furlough. My agency regulates so much of the industry that it essentially bans work outside the government. In addition, it is also forbidden for most employees to have more than one federal job simultaneously. Any possibility of earning income from another source while in furlough is nonexistent because of these reasons.

    So for those who want to rub it in our faces that we’re getting what we deserve, I hope you can spare a little sympathy.

    For those who are trying to understand and for those who are enduring this embarrassment of a situation our leaders have orchestrated, thank you.

  91. Bowserkitty*

    I live outside the country now and woke up at 5am to wonder if the government was still shut down.

    It is.

    Thanks for linking to KtF’s comment post!!! This is an interesting read.

  92. Overeducated*

    I am furloughed. Not too worried about it from personal perspective yet because I have enough savings (and I’ve never done so much cleaning and organizing not tied directly to a move – haven’t even started baking or bingeing Netflix yet!). Crossing my fingers for back pay, of course, but feeling awful for the contractor who started in our office recently who was only going to take one day of leave for Christmas.

    What am AM upset about is my actual work, which runs on a pretty tight annual timeline. We’re extra short staffed this year so the longer this goes on, the harder it’s going to be to meet the deadlines for our basic core responsibilities. What a huge waste of precious time. I’d like to go back to work next week to avoid getting further behind.

    1. CookieWookiee*

      Same here. We have legally mandated deadlines that we CANNOT break. I cleared out everything I could that Friday. Last shutdown it took us WEEKS to get out from under the backlog. This is going to be a nightmare.

      Hope you get through this ok.

      1. Overeducated*

        I’ve never been through a shutdown in this job, started it under a year ago so i haven’t even been through the whole annual cycle…weeks to dig out would be a disaster! We were expecting things to slow down between Christmas and New Year’s anyway since lots of people who have to approve things had scheduled leave, so it wasn’t a huge deal then, but now that we’re into January it’s going to build up.

        Thanks for the well wishes, i hope this time is better than last for you.

    2. Jaid_Diah*

      My work is somewhat seasonal, but even this might result in a backlog. Here’s hoping we get back next week.

  93. Corporate America is calling*

    I’m a hiring manager at a tech company and posted a new job requisition on December 21, 2018. For the first time ever ~20% of the applicants are federal government workers (usually it’s <5%).

    Here are suggestions for a federal worker when writing a resume for a corporate job requisition.
    * Create a new resume for the corporate world. I’m not
    * Have two friends help you edit the resume.
    * Do not state the number of hours you work per week. We work 40+ hours per week.
    * Do not include GS-123-45 after your job title. I don’t know/care what GS-123-45 means.
    * Use bullet points to list your accomplishments, not your responsibilities.

    If you want corporate hiring managers to take time and review your resume, take time to make it a corporate resume. is not the standard for corporate America.

    Alison has good advice:

  94. Dean*

    Right now I am in an agency that is affected, but fortunately I’m a contractor that is considered essential so I am getting paid. Unfortunately I’m seeing so much ill advice coming from above, such as getting a side job to supplement income. What leadership forgets is that if you have a clearance, you cannot have a side job unless it is cleared by a department in our agency that is shut down…Anyway for those that are looking for help I highly advise going to It’s all in one service that links those in need with non-profits all over the nation for just about everything and it’s based through United Way. Food, taxes, utility help, rent assistance, etc. Additionally, if you are wanting to help those impacted, they would be a great resource to donate to because it goes to all sorts of resources. Good luck everyone. Let’s hope this passes quickly.

  95. Nox*

    Hi folks,
    I wanted to share with any affected fed employees that if they have a mortgage they should call and see if their bank has a home preservation department. You’ll be asked to submit some documents to determine risk but you’ll be able to receive some options on how to either halt foreclosure proceedings or reduce the payment temporarily. The bank I work for is one of those companies that offers it as an option.

  96. Batshua*

    I just came here to say that I remember the last shutdown and PLEASE, if you are not affected, send love and support to anyone you know in an AmeriCorps program. There are three branches of the program and all three are funded differently. I was lucky and my program was fully funded for the year so I continued to get my minimum wage for my 50 hour week of service, but some of the other programs weren’t, and our friends in AmeriCorps programs from other branches were required to show up to serve despite not paid their tiny stipend during the shutdown, so many folks were struggling to buy food as well as afford gas to get to their duty stations.

    1. Overeducated*

      Oh no! AmeriCorps people make next to nothing and I can’t imagine having any reserves on that stipend. I don’t know anyone doing it personally now but my fingers are crossed for them.

    2. Job seeker*

      Mine is funded by the year but we have members who work at the forest service. We’re required to work 15 hours a pay period – they could have easily gotten their hours for 16-31, but we don’t have much time left in this current one.

  97. soon tob former fed*

    No advice, just want to express my continuing frustration with this entire mess.

  98. soon tob former fed*

    Oh, it’s hardly a paid vacation when no money is coming in and you can’t enjoy the time off because of worry about finances. With actual leave, you get paid on payday like everybody else. Run of the mill employees have no input in determining who is excepted, or not. Furloughs stink for everyone, and having groups of employees sniping at each other helps no one. Call your congresscritters people! And encourage everyone you know to do the same.

  99. soon tob former fed*

    Sorry for the consecutive posts. This furlough is also made worse because we feds were further insulted by being denied any raise at all, even a measly one percent, at the same time that we were laid off. I would encourage no one at all to go into the federal service now.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      what makes this one especially bad too is knowing that if the Democrats give in, he’ll just do this again for anything he wants.

  100. Quiznakit*

    I’m a first-line supervisor (GS-7, nothing fancy) in one of the departments that isn’t funded, but we have some ongoing funding which means some of our projects are still running. I’m excepted, but most of my colleagues are not. Those of us who are excepted are running ourselves ragged trying to hold it all together. I had planned to take last week off, but canceled my plans because otherwise, there wouldn’t have been any supervisor coverage. I’m still feeling pretty salty about that.

    Knowing that at least I can be sure I’ll get paid eventually isn’t as much of a comfort as you’d think it would be. Plus some of the people I supervise are furloughed and some are not, and some are being recalled to work (as excepted agents), and no one has any idea how long this will last. I’m lucky in that I spent the entirety of last year scraping together a one-month savings fund, so I’ll get by, and I have family who will help me out if this thing drags on long enough for me to exhaust my savings, but it’s still incredibly stressful and irritating to see this all going on for what is essentially a political–dare I say campaign?–stunt.

    1. Another Manic Monday*

      I’m excepted and the last two weeks have been very stressful and exhausting. I don’t have any financial problems because I do have other sources of income and a decent emergency savings; but having to be a part of the excepted skeleton crew isn’t fun at all. We were significantly understaffed (about 30 on staff, 15 vacancies) before the shutdown and now we are 7 excepted staff basically doing the work of 45. Needless, it’s a sinking ship as we were already severely backlogged due to be understaffed. Today is my first day off during the shutdown as I otherwise would have had be over 80 hours in the two-week pay period. I’m getting pretty close to reach a burn-out stage if this continues for another two weeks or more.

  101. betty (the other betty)*

    I just went to one of my bank’s websites (Wells Fargo) and saw this message, which I thought might be helpful to some people:

    Wells Fargo is here to help customers who are experiencing hardship as a result of the federal government shutdown.

    The bank will work with individuals and business banking customers whose income is disrupted as a result of the shutdown. Customers should call 1-800-TO-WELLS, or the number on their credit card, debit card or statement for assistance, or visit any Wells Fargo branch.

    In addition, Wells Fargo mortgage, loan, and credit customers may qualify for forbearance or other payment assistance programs based on their individual circumstances. For help, customers should contact: and a list of contact numbers.

  102. Lynne879*

    There are a lot of government employees that live in my county, so my county library is generously suspending fines & fees while the shutdown is ongoing.

    I have nothing but sympathies for those who are affected, I’m so sorry this is happening to you.

    1. H.C.*

      Not sure if you work at said county library, but also consider putting out resources for financial assistance & other forms of support (particularly no-/low-cost ones).

  103. bippity-boppity-bacon*

    I’m not a fed, but even past all of the awful human effects, as a scientist I see enumerable ways this whole process halts scientific progress. I know quite a few people furloughed so they cannot DO research, and the major agencies who FUND research are also at a standstill, so who knows when those next grants will get reviewed. A major conference in my field happens next week and many feds are prevented from attending. The super computer I work on has logins turned off so many (this one includes me) can’t run analysis or access results. Many sources of data are government servers that have access shutdown right now. There will certainly be ripple effects of this felt for a while.

    1. Vancouver*

      We get a lot of information from NOAA, Dept. of Interior, and others in my work as well (well, the research team upstairs does – I work in the sub-basement keeping humans organized). The number of projects that were set back years during the last shutdown was disheartening. Projects where they needed three or five years of consistently recorded data had to start over, due to the gaps in the data… I imagine we’ll see that again this time. I feel for the scientists who aren’t only not getting paid, but are also losing the last several years of their work. Since so many are in it for the work, rather than the money, I know it’s especially disheartening to lose both.

    2. Almost Academic*

      Another scientist here. It’s such a waste. I know of neuroscience colleagues who lost experiments that were years in the making during the last shutdown, due to an inability to access specially-bred knockout animals. Their colony won’t be able to recover for at least another three years. The amount this sets back public knowledge in the long-term is heartbreaking, along with the immediate impact to all of the fed workers.

  104. Flower*

    In light of Trump’s claim today that the shutdown could last “months or even years” (which I’m sure wouldn’t happen, Congress would probably find the ability to override a veto before that) – do feds have the option of resigning while furloughed? What would the consequences of that be?

    1. Slippy*

      Maybe? This is complicated by several factors. If they are excepted and required to work is abandoning your job illegal? For the people that are furloughed at what point have they “abandoned” their job and if Congress authorizes back pay, do they get paid for the days they were furloughed until they abandoned their job?

      To make it even stickier, HR would need to process resignations and it is likely that HR is furloughed. It would also need to be processed on IT systems run by contractors that are furloughed……

  105. anon for this*

    Australian public servant here. No advice, just sympathy and good wishes for you all. It’s a disgrace the way you’re being treated.

  106. Woodswoman*

    As a former federal employee and with friends working for the National Park Service and nonprofit partners dependent on park access, I send my best wishes to everyone affected!

  107. Kat Ann*

    If you are looking to make some extra cash and have an internet connection, you could always teach ESL online. I’ve used a couple different companies and found it to be fun, interesting (students are from all the world) and relatively lucrative. Won’t list specific companies because I don’t want AAM to think I’m advertising.

    1. Flower*

      Just a reminder that in general, feds cannot take work without it being preapproved by their agency.

      1. Kat Ann*

        I worked as a contractor for a fed agency, and there was nothing disallowing me from working a second job. I think that may only be the case for higher level positions, not folks who do things like food service or janitorial work.

  108. Spring*

    Once random issue from the shutdown that is effecting me right now, is that the DC bar is not processing background checks due to the shutdown, so I will not be able to be sworn in as a lawyer until its over.

    This does not hurt me too much, because I work at a large agency (that’s funded) so it just changes what I can do, but there are a lot of law school grads who were going to either small firms, or planned to become solos who are now just unable to work for an indeterminate period of time.

  109. Zoey*

    My husband is furloughed. Financially we are okay for the moment but if this lasts another month he is thinking about looking for a new position outside of the fed government. We were planning on moving so shorten his commute this spring but we are rethinking this.

  110. HughJardon67*

    First — I am a government employee (FAA) that is excepted (working), and I know my pay will be delayed until after the shutdown is over. That’s ok, my wife and I are fortunate to have other monthly income to cover any and all expenses. Second — I am one of the 5% in my office that IS working while the furloughed rest are on a free vacation (they will be back paid, it’s already in the works). They will gloat, brag, and rub it in just like they did after the last shutdown. That’s ok, too, I suppose–wasn’t their fault that they were told to go home. Finally — I am upset that the vacation day (8 hrs) and sick leave for a doc appt (2 hrs) that I took during this shutdown will come off of my leave balance once the shutdown is over and back pay is given. I say given, because it is indeed a gift…it was NOT earned. Now — someone explain to me why the workers who were OFF get back pay/are “made whole” for the entire period while the ones who actually worked (and covered their workload, mind you) have to “take leave” for the time we were away? Shouldn’t the excepted employees’ limited time away be a free vacation, too? My Answer: NO, it shouldn’t be a free vacation for ANY government employee, including me. We are paid with tax dollars and everyone should be upset by it. AND…we should voice that however and wherever appropriate. Side note: I stay in contact with many of my furloughed coworkers and NONE of them are concerned…in fact, they started making “free vacation” comments on Day 1. What are your thoughts?

  111. Mad As Heck*

    Being required to work without pay is called “Slavery”, and that is not allowed in the USA since 1863. It’s part of our Constitution, also. Look it up.

  112. FedLAW*

    HughJardon67, your backpay is not in the works since only Congress can approve that, and they have neither brought up nor passed any such bill. Also, all leave is cancelled for essential employees, government-wide. So your leave balances will NOT be affected if you’d requested or scheduled leave during a lapse in your agency’s appropriations. If somehow your management attempts to deduct leave from your balances, you should definitely consult with your union (if you’re a member), HR, or your agency’s Office of General Counsel. I am a federal appropriations lawyer (also deemed essential), and I advise OMB and OPM on these issues. I know the rules inside and out and have weathered five shutdowns. So please don’t spread misinformation and nasty conjecture. It reflects poorly on you also.

  113. Shutdown*

    WAEPA (Group Term Life Insurance for Feds, alternative or supplement to our FEGLI insurance) announced today that they’re waiving all premium fees for January because of the shutdown. I’d recommend that other Feds check them out.

  114. L*

    I am currently interviewing for a position with a federal agency. Some of the employees have been furloughed and some are still working. The agency is out of state and I would have to move if I am offered the job and accept it. They were going to fly me up for a second interview but it has been changed to a skype interview. Should I ask about how the shutdown or future shutdowns may affect the position? I am very concerned that I will move my family to another state, the government will shut down again, and I won’t be paid.

  115. Shawna*

    My husband and I are blessed that I work in the private sector and can support both of us but If he does not get out of the bed and do something other than binge Netflix soon he might end up on his own. Not helping around the house anymore than normal not going out not cleaning. How can one person lie in bed so much?

    1. Not An Intern Any More*

      I spent the first two weeks of my furlough doing absolutely nothing but lying in bed. It was the first time but absolutely no one asked me to do anything related to work. After that, I remembered chores.

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