Who gets hit when the government shuts down?

More than 800,000 federal employees to be affected when funding runs out April 8

After weeks of impasses and last-minute reprieves, it appears a government shutdown will happen when funding expires April 8.

The Obama administration is making contingency plans, and has released some details about what to expect.

About 800,000 federal employees will be affected, said a senior administration official in a conference call for reporters April 6. That figure is based on what happened during the last government shutdown in the mid-1990s, the official said.

That rough estimate doesn’t account for changes since the previous shutdown though, such as the Veterans Affairs Department’s multi-year appropriations and the creation of the Homeland Security Department.

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The official said government activities not affected by the shutdown fall into two broad categories – those that receive funding from other sources, such as user fees or multi-year appropriations, and activities that are necessary for the safety of life or protection of property, such as the military and law enforcement.

But almost everything else the government does would come to a halt during a shutdown, the official said, specifically naming the processing of tax refunds for paper-filed returns, the approval of applications for small-business loan guarantees, and new home loan guarantees. In addition, national parks and the Smithsonian Institute would close.

According to guidance released by the Office of Personnel Management April 5, federal agencies also wouldn’t have the authority to pay their employees during a shutdown regardless of whether they are working as “excepted” or furloughed as “non-excepted.”

“Excepted employees will receive pay for hours worked when the Congress passes and the president signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution,” the guidance states. “Congress will also determine whether non-excepted employees will receive pay for the furlough period.”

The senior administration official explained during the call that those in the military would keep working during a shutdown but would not receive their paychecks until Congress appropriates funds for the remainder of fiscal 2011.

The civilian workforce at the Defense Department would have the same consideration as others in the federal government, meaning that they will be notified about their status as an excepted or non-excepted employee. However, the official said he expects, “a significant number of DOD civilian employees would be furloughed if the government shuts down.”

Similar to federal agencies across-the-board, the White House would also experience “significantly lower staffing levels” if Congress fails to reach a long-term agreement on this year’s budget, the official added.

Budget talks at the White House that took place April 5 with congressional leadership reportedly didn’t result in any compromise, but Obama is pledging a hard-line going forward.

“We can’t have a my-way or the high-way approach to this problem because if we start applying that approach, where I’ve got to get 110 percent of everything I want or else I’m going to shut down the government, we’re not going to get anything done this year,” he said at a news conference April 5.

Obama said that he is no longer willing to fund agencies through short-term extensions, adding that there is “no excuse” for lawmakers not to get a fiscal 2011 budget passed and prevent the government from shutting down.

About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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Reader Comments

Fri, Apr 8, 2011

Not only are the Federal employees affected such as myself (living pay check to pay check) affected by this shutdown, so are the contractors working for the Federal government. Don't forget there are more contractors working for the Federal Government than there are government employees. But unlike Federal Employees, these contractors won't get paid for the furlough time off (as may the Federal employees if Congress says no) and they lose their health insurance during the furlough. And like many government employees, although the agencies pay twice as much for a contractor, the contractor never sees the money, their employer does, so like many government employees, they live pay check to pay check and this shutdown may bankrupt many if it continues for any length of time. Last count it was estimated 12million contractors worked for the government, watch what happens at the unemployment offices if the shutdown lasts longer than a week.

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 CJ

How's this for a spending cut - it's not much but it is symbolic. For every day the federal government doesn't have a formal budget (i.e. either operating under CRA or shutdown) ALL members of the house, senate and their staffs are docked ONE-HALF the equivalent of one day's pay in session (e.g annual salary divided by the numbner of required days in session). This is similar to how TEACHERS are docked pay for absensences during the school year other than accrued sick leave (except that teachers are docked an equivalent full day pay).

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 Mark Sacramento

Amen to Paul. I agree 100% (or is it 110%) in what you are saying. The unfortunately part of this is that the majority of people that feel our way are not being heard in the mainstream. I would rather see the Gov. shut down before compromising on important issues. Who knows, maybe we only need the essentials anyway?

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 Indiana

Once again President Obama is being blamed for issues that existed during President Bush term. The deficit is not knew it is just not being managed properly. DOD has to many SES's supporting each other due to a lack of skills in all areas management prior to DFAS. Directors where knowledgeable about all areas9 Finance, human resources, Budget, facilities and etc. they were managing. TheY relied on the lower grade employees to perform their job and keep them abreast of anything they needed to know. Where are working managers . Now we have the delegate the work managers because they don't want to worklearn. They beleive they have reached a level where they no longer have to work. That's part of our problem. within DOD.

Fri, Apr 8, 2011 Indianapolis

Once again Congress has dropped the ball. Every year there is a budget to be signed we end up with a CRA. What are they doing the previous months before the budget is due. They should be able to be fired for poor performance. Or fined/penalized their salary for everyday a budget is noit signed due to their lack of urgency. The salary they are being paid to do their job, I would gladly do and be timely in ensuring a budget is passed to maintain my position. They can overdraw their bank accounts to pay their bills into the $100,00.00 me an average citizen my account will be closed after I've exhausted my overdraft protection and savings. Congress should be held to the same standards as other working Americans to perform their job efficiently,accurately and in a timely manner. Their representation of the people is very questionable. I can perform a better job at managing a budget than do. My salary is a forth of what they make and I'm not facing brankruptcy or shutting down my household. Congress should be fired and replaced with the voters who would work for half their salary and perks and meet deadlines.

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