Federal employees will likely continue to feel the impacts of the partial government shutdown for weeks to come, even as the initial days of the shutdown occur over the Christmas holiday.
According to Doreen Greenwald, revenue officer at the Internal Revenue Service, paychecks for the pay period of Dec. 9 through Dec. 22, the majority of which consisted of normal, fully funded work, will arrive for feds on Dec. 31.
This means that most feds, particularly those that work a typical Monday-Friday work schedule, would continue to experience normal pay for the end of the year.
“The first pay period in January would start showing the shutdown hours,” Greenwald said in a Dec. 24 National Treasury Employee Union press call.
According to an NTEU survey of approximately 1,500 of its members, 85 percent of those employees are limiting their spending in advance of those missing or reduced paychecks in January. And 50 percent of those employees are having to cancel or change holiday plans because of the shutdown.
“A shutdown is not a vacation for federal employees, but rather a stress-filled and uncertain period of time without the promise of a paycheck,” National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association National President Ken Thomas said in a statement.
The Senate has passed legislation to guarantee back pay for both furloughed employees and those required to work during the shutdown without pay, and a companion bill has been introduced in the House. Both chambers of Congress have recessed and won’t reconvene until Thurs., Dec. 27.
“I’m pleased that the Senate has passed legislation to ensure that furloughed federal employees receive back pay for the time that they are forced off the job, and that those working without a paycheck are paid promptly once the shutdown ends,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon.
“I’ve been dismayed and, to be quite candid, angered at some of the comments that I’ve heard over the past few days about our federal workers, that somehow they shouldn’t have financial concerns, that they signed up for this type of disruption to their lives or that they are merely paper pushers in Washington, D.C., and the American public doesn’t care about them.”
For the IRS, in particular, the shutdown could spell problems for the upcoming tax season, as employees that were scheduled to receive training in the new tax system may not have the opportunity to do so before the tax season begins in late January.
“We are concerned that the filing season is not going to get off in a good way,” said Reardon.
If the shutdown goes on for too long, employees that were initially furloughed may be called back into work without pay to begin preparations for tax season.
“There is a non-filing-season shutdown plan, and there is a filing-season shutdown plan. And what has been implemented thus far is the non-filing-season shutdown plan,” said Reardon. “A significant difference is that the number of people furloughed in a filing-season plan is significantly less than those that are furloughed in a non-filing-season plan.”
Agencies like the National Park Service also have to worry about continuing service for the public while closing bathrooms and visitor centers and worrying about continuing law enforcement at the parks.
“During the very brief shutdown earlier this year, actually, there were incidents even in Yellowstone where a hunter illegally shot an elk in the park. So things are happening in the parks during these shutdowns,” said Rudy D’Alesandro, international cooperation specialist at NPS.
Some states have used their funding to help keep federal parks open and operating, but that assistance is not a guarantee everywhere.
“Not every state can afford to come to the rescue of the federal government and provide the funding," said D’Alesandro.
Jessie Bur covered the federal workforce and the changes most likely to impact government employees for Federal Times.