Planning for a Shutdown

As the U.S. approaches another possible government shutdown, the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service has released two reports, Government Shutdowns and Executive Branch Operations: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) and Past Government Shutdowns: Key Resources, providing historical context as well as up-to-date procedure details for shutdowns. Should a gap in funding occur, executive agencies are are expected to follow their publicly available shutdown plans as presented to the Office of Management and Budget. These plans are updated August 1st on every year ending in an odd number, unless funding changes have triggered a more frequent update. These plans layout short-term and long-term agency changes including the anticipated total number of furloughed employees, the anticipated total number of retained employees, and the designated “personnel responsible for implementing the planned actions.”

According to the reports, during a shutdown employees “may be put on shutdown furloughs or ‘excepted’ from furlough and told to come to work.” Furloughed employees are not paid and do not work during the shutdown period, however the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019 requires furloughed employees receive retroactive pay when the shutdown has ceased. In addition to this, furloughed employees will have scheduled PTO (paid time off) canceled for the duration of the shutdown and no accruals will be effected. Importantly, health insurance and other benefits should generally continue as usual. On the other hand, employees ‘excepted’ from furlough are expected to still work during the shutdown regardless of pay. These employees will receive pay when funding resumes. The President will still work with pay as protected by the Constitution.

For more information on topics related to this piece, check out HSDL’s In Focus topics on Federal Workforce Challenges and Debt Limit.

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