January 9, 2019: Shutdown Musings

On December 22, 2018, I became one of 380,000 Federal employees furloughed from my job because of a “lapse in appropriations” — Congress failed to fund my Agency. (Another 400,000 Federal employees deemed “essential” have had to work without pay, including TSA agents, Customs and Border Control staff, and Coast Guard employees.) It has been a surreal experience, particularly as this shutdown drags on and on. This blog is a chance to share my perspectives.

Is a Furlough a Paid Vacation?

A few days ago, I listed to 1A, a radio program hosted by WAMU, the local National Public Radio affiliate. This program was about the shutdown. A guest speaker was NTEU National President Anthony Reardon. Listeners were invited to call in. One caller, a contractor who works side by side with Federal employees, observed that some Federal employees welcome shutdowns as free vacations. Historically, Federal employees have always been paid after the Government reopens, whether they must work or are unable to work. So to have a day or two that the Government is closed may be a chance for some to recharge without having to use annual or sick leave.

I understand that; personally, because I was battling a cold, I welcomed the chance to stay in bed and watch junk TV for a day or two. However, this is Day 19! We care about our work, we care about the services that we provide the American people, and we also care about paying our bills.

I need to add that there is NO guarantee that furloughed employees will be paid for this shutdown. Congress needs to vote on this and the President needs to sign off on it. This shutdown appears to be different from other shutdowns, so nothing is guaranteed. I’ll add that even if we are reimbursed, bills are coming due now and can’t wait for Congress and the President to act.

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