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(Another) Government Shutdown??

When Congress can’t agree on a budget, government shutdowns are likely to occur. So what does a shutdown mean for many of us – social security checks (thankfully) are not impacted and our military folks and troops will remain at their posts. Additionally, the medical industry – doctors, nurses and hospitals will continue to receive Medicaid and Medicare payments and other ‘essential’ workers like our Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Transportation Security Administration and Border Patrol Agents will stay on the job. However, hundreds of thousands of federal workers will not be going to work; so what about the museums, parks, zoos, and the like that the public enjoy? If Congress can’t reach an agreement we will ‘all’ feel the impact in one form or fashion in our personal or professional lives, or both.

For those federal workers that are furloughed, back pay is provided for as long as the government is closed; however, this is not a guarantee. Although lawmakers pass legislation to ensure compensation for federal workers during a lapse in appropriations, there is always ‘chatter’ of its uncertainty, particularly given a new administration. For those essential employees (performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or protection of property), they will be ‘excepted’ from such a shutdown furlough and expected to work. Political appointees are part of the Title 5 leave system, and therefore, not subject to furloughs so they will work during a shutdown as well. Each agency decides how to notify their employees as well as determine their status – whether excepted or not.

Health benefits continue to be provided to federal employees during a shutdown, per OPM. Federal Employees enrolled in a Group Life Insurance program (FEGLI) will receive coverage for 12 months without any additional costs to the employee or agency. Likewise, the Long Term Care Insurance Program that some federal workers have will continue with covered premiums, but automatic payroll deductions will cease during a furlough for participating employees. Federal Employees Retirement (FERS) and Civil Service Retirement (CSRS) individuals will continue to receive annuity payments and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) will operate normally given a shutdown; however, furloughed employees that are TSP enrollees will be unable to make contributions but they can still request a financial hardship withdrawal.

So, there is the good, the bad and the ugly in all of this, but how much does a shutdown really cost? In 2013, for example, a 16 day shutdown cost the government over $2.5 billion in lost productivity. Also, the numerous financial impacts surrounding those losses associated with National Park and Museum fees are extensive. Finally, contracts, stop work orders and temporary layoffs throughout the federal community are plentiful during a furlough since these operations are usually suspended.

For more information on Furloughs, their impact, and the current status of the latest Continuing Resolutions, read Federal News radio’s article titled “Here is How a Shutdown Affects Your Pay and Benefits.” [1]

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