Double Furlough Trouble for Feds

By Kellie Lunney

September 5, 2013

Labor Day marks the traditional, if not official, end of summer. It also means a new fiscal year is less than a month away, and so is the threat of more furloughs for federal employees.

Congress for the last few years has lurched from one government funding deadline to another, and the federal workforce has lived under the shutdown shadow since 2011. Then in March 2013, automatic, across-the-board budget cuts took effect, forcing some agencies to place employees on unpaid leave.

This fall the circumstances are a little different because feds are facing the possibility of two types of furloughs simultaneously starting Oct. 1: furloughs related to sequestration, and those caused by a government shutdown because Congress has yet to pass any appropriations bills or a continuing resolution. And then there’s the mid-October deadline for raising the debt ceiling, which is a whole other story.

Yep, summer’s over alright. Don’t make any Columbus Day plans.

It’s not likely that the government will shutter in the next few weeks. Republican and Democratic leaders in both chambers are dead set against it, and lawmakers have to vote right after recess on whether the military should intervene in Syria. On the one hand, they have a lot to do in the nine legislative days between their return and the start of fiscal 2014, creating an anxiety-ridden situation for feds. On the other, shutting down the government and authorizing military strikes on a foreign government at the same time seems particularly unwise, even for this Congress.

Having said that, it’s worth looking at the differences between shutdown, or emergency furloughs due to a lapse in appropriations, and the administrative furloughs many feds already are familiar with through sequestration. The bottom line is, your pay is at risk but your benefits are well protected under both scenarios. For simplicity’s sake, this column will refer to administrative furloughs as sequestration furloughs.

Please remember that this is not an exhaustive list, just the highlights. Click on the links for OPM guidance on administrative furloughs and shutdown furloughs for more detailed information.


By Kellie Lunney

September 5, 2013

http://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/pay-benefits-watch/2013/09/double-furlough-trouble-feds/69934/