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Shutdown would hit many agencies hard

Apr. 8, 2011 - 06:00AM   |  
By FEDERAL TIMES STAFF   |   Comments
NASA is among the agencies that will be hardest hit by the government shutdown.
NASA is among the agencies that will be hardest hit by the government shutdown. (NASA)

If a shutdown happens after midnight, some agencies be almost completely shut down — others would be relatively unscathed.

Among those that would be hardest hit: NASA, the Education Department, EPA, the Merit Systems Protection Board, and the Housing and Urban Development Department all would see more than 90 percent of their workforces put on furlough.

Many more agencies would see more than half of their staffs put on furlough include the Health and Human Services, Commerce, Treasury, Labor and Interior departments.

Chart: Agency-by-agency furlough numbers

Some agencies would be relatively unscathed by comparison. The Energy Department, for instance, said it does not expect to put any employees or contract employees on furlough because its operations are either essential or run under special funding authorizations.

The Veterans Affairs Department is funded under a two-year appropriation and much of its operations are considered essential because they protect health. That department is estimating only 3 percent of its staff will be furloughed in the event of a shutdown.

The Office of Personnel Management said federal employees should monitor http://www.opm.gov/oca/leave/HTML/LWOP_eff.asp">www.opm.gov, as well as the media, for further information on the government's operating status.

Here is a rundown of how various agencies will be impacted by a shutdown:

Agriculture

Roughly 80 percent of the Agriculture Department's 110,000-person staff will be furloughed. The department's Food Safety and Inspection Service plans to continue daily inspections, enforcement and product testing of the nation's commercial meat and poultry products. At the rural development division, most employees will be furloughed, except those needed for financial process, such as to advance funds to preserve the division's assets and to process customers' funds, such as loan escrow accounts.

Commerce

Approximately one-third of the Commerce Department's 46,761 employees will show up for work during a shutdown.

The department will continue supporting tsunami relief in Japan, essential aircraft and vessel support for the Deepwater Horizon activities and law enforcement protection of marine fisheries. Services will stop at some agencies within the department, including the Economic Development Administration, Census Bureau and the International Trade Administration, and Commerce Department grant recipients will be cut off from any assistance.

Education Department

The Education Department will furlough about 4,150 of 4,465 full-time and part-time employees. Because they are funded from mandatory appropriations, Pell Grants and Direct Loans for college students will not be affected by the shutdown.

But schools will be unable to disburse funds to student from any campus-based programs such as Federal Work-Study and Perkins Loans. Contractors working on existing contracts will be able to keep working "for some short period of time," the department said, but, in general, no new contracts will be awarded unless they are significantly related to activities excepted from the shutdown.

Energy Department

The Energy Department will not furlough any employees on Monday and will instead rely on leftover funds from previous appropriations and non-appropriated funding to continue operations for a limited time. An Energy Department spokesperson said that the agency must continue to operate at a minimum level across the agency.

EPA

EPA will see more than 90 percent of its staff put on furlough —only 1,660 of its 17,721 employees will continue to work. Among those staff that will continue operations: those who protect research labs and work at Superfund sites where remedial action or removal of hazardous waste has already started.

General Services Administration

The General Services Administration will furlough 1,399 of its 12,697 employees and will not process new orders for goods, services or space unless it is to support excepted activities, which are those that support national security or protect life and property.

The Federal Acquisitions Service will start winding down its operations over a 21-day period in order to finish processing existing orders.

Buildings will operate in "weekend mode" with janitorial and building services to support the duties of accepted employees, but at reduced levels.

Health and Human Services

The Administration for Children and Families, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Food and Drug Administration are among the HHS agencies that will furlough most of their staff. The National Institutes of Health Clinical Center will not admit new patients or new clinical trials. New grants for services that support the elderly and grants for new services, like Head Start, will not be awarded. Excepted FDA staff will continue inspecting regulated products and manufacturers, perform inspections and recall operations and review import entries.

Homeland Security Department

The Department of Homeland Security will furlough about 46,000 employees — about 20 percent of its work force.

Law enforcement agencies as well as border protection services will continue to operate. Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration will continue to operate as well.

FEMA grants to state and local governments will be curtailed, as well as certain citizenship and passport services offered through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The E-Verify system employers and organizations use to check citizenship status will not work during that time.

Housing and Urban Development

The Housing and Urban Development Department will furlough 91 percent of its staff. Organizations remaining open include the Office of Community Planning and Development, which will continue Recovery Act funded activities, essential services to the homeless and people with AIDS, and Community Development Block Fund disbursements deemed necessary to protect life and property.

But the Office of Single Family will not endorse new loans, and only operations needed to conduct Federal Housing Administration's existing portfolio will be conducted.

Interior Department

The Interior Department will furlough as many as 80 percent of its workforce. National parks, wildlife refuges and Bureau of Land Management campgrounds, as well as onshore oil and gas leasing activities and most permitting, inspection and enforcement work will be closed. Most U.S. Geological Survey scientific work and data collection and analysis will also cease.

The U.S. Park Police will remain open, however, and most offshore energy development activities will continue, including plans reviews, permitting, inspection and enforcement work. Wildlife caretakers and fish hatchery staff will stay on duty to feed and protect wildlife.

Justice Department

The Justice Department said 20 percent of its 117,579 employees will be furloughed in the event of a shutdown. All field agents at the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service, and 92 percent of Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives field personnel, will be kept on the job. All Bureau of Prisons staff at the 116 federal prisons will stay on the job. Half of the 12,244 employees at the U.S. Attorneys' office will be excepted from furlough, including 93 U.S. attorneys.

Criminal litigation will continue, but civil litigation will be curtailed or postponed as much as possible.

Labor Department

Mine and workplace safety inspections will continue. Several types of benefits payments awarded through the Office of Workers Compensation Programs will continue. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will cease survey and program operations, and the public website will not be updated. Minimal oversight will be provided for Job Corps centers under the jurisdiction of Labor and Agriculture departments.

Merit Systems Protection Board

The Merit Systems Protection Board said it will cease all operations and no staff will be available to answer any questions until the government begins operating again.

All filing and processing deadlines will automatically be extended by the number of days the government is shut down. Hearings, status conferences or other matters scheduled for administrative judges during the shutdown will be postponed.

NASA

NASA will furlough the majority of its 18,960 employees, considering only 428 employees to be essential during the shutdown. NASA spokeswoman Sonja Alexander said she did not have details about what divisions in NASA will be staffed.

Office of Personnel Management

OPM plans to furlough 11 percent of its workforce, although more employees could be furloughed if the shutdown continues and money in revolving funds runs out. Revolving funds pay for background investigations, human resources solutions for customer agencies, and http://usajobs.gov/">USAJOBS.gov. OPM will also keep working on implementing its portion of the health care reform bill passed last year.

Some employees who work for OPM's chief information officer, chief financial officer, or in human resources offices will be considered essential and excepted. The Office of Inspector General will keep 120 of its 128 employees on duty during a shutdown.

OPM said it has enough money in retirement and health insurance trust funds to keep them operating during a lapse in appropriations.

Social Security Administration

SSA field offices will continue receiving applications for benefits and appointments but will stop issuing original and replacement Social Security cards. State disability determination services will handle initial claims, including terminally ill, dire need and wounded warriors. Continuing disability reviews to ensure beneficiaries are still disabled will cease. The Office of Disability and Adjudication and Review will only hear and decide cases, and all other operations, such as hearing appeals and tracking new cases, will cease.

State Department

The State Department will not be able to process passport applications but wills till be providing emergency services to U.S. citizens around the world.

While it has not released specific staffing levels, it expects consular staff around the world to be staffed at 90 to 100 percent, especially in critical areas across the Middle East and Asia.

Transportation Department

The Transportation Department plans to furlough 17,870 of its 58,011 employees. Nearly 15,000 of those furloughs will come from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Air traffic control operations, maintenance of navigational aids, accident investigations, and hazardous materials safety inspections will continue at FAA. But development of new air traffic controllers, aviation rulemaking, facility security inspections, and development of the NextGen air traffic control system will halt.

Treasury Department

The Treasury Department will furlough almost three-quarters of its staff. With the April 18 income tax filing deadline less than two weeks away, the IRS will continue to accept all returns, but taxpayers who file by paper will experience delays in getting their refunds. Although IRS walk-in taxpayer assistance centers will close, limited telephone customer service help will be available. People with appointments related to audits, appeals and taxpayer advocate cases should assume that those meetings are cancelled and will be rescheduled.

Several Treasury bureaus funded from other source than annual appropriations will remain open: they include the U.S. Mint, the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Office of Thrift Supervision.

Veteran Affairs Department

The Veteran Affairs Department will continue providing all health care services to veterans using advance appropriations from Congress. Veterans currently receiving pension, disability and compensation payments will not be affected, but claims processing may be delayed. New compensation and pension benefits processing will be impacted, and VA call centers and hotlines will be down.

Staff writers slosey@federaltimes.com?subject=Reader Question">STEPHEN LOSEY, schacko@federaltimes.com?subject=Reader Question">Sarah Chacko, Nicole Johnson, sreilly@federaltimes.com?subject=Reader Question">Sean Reilly and Andrew Medici contributed to this article.

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