M. Trubee / NPCA

Congressman Wants List of Employees Deemed 'Non-Essential' During Shutdown

White House would maintain database of furloughed employees' names, pay and job descriptions.

The White House should maintain a detailed list of the roughly 40 percent of federal employees who are furloughed during a shutdown, a Republican lawmaker proposed in a new bill, saying increasing transparency surrounding those workers would help reduce the “bloated bureaucracy.”

The Essential Act (H.R. 5091), introduced by Rep. Ted Budd, R-N.C., would require the Office of Management and Budget to maintain a database of every employee not excepted or exempted during a shutdown. The list would include the employees’ names, salaries and job descriptions, information that each agency would be required to submit to OMB.

During two brief government shutdowns earlier this year, about 860,000 employees were scheduled to be sent home without pay. In both cases, Congress opted to grant those workers back pay. The remaining 60 percent of the federal workforce reported to their jobs with the promise of back pay once government reopened because their salaries were paid by non-appropriated funds or because they did work necessary to protect life or property.

Employees who are in positions paid using non-appropriated funds are deemed “exempted” from furloughs, while those performing work that continues during a shutdown are considered “excepted.” Who works and does not work during a shutdown is determined on an agency-by-agency basis, but follows the general guidelines established in an interpretation of the Antideficiency Act by the Reagan administration’s Justice Department. OMB typically issues additional guidance to agencies when an appropriations lapse is imminent.

Feds who work during a shutdown are commonly referred to as “essential” and those who do not work, as “non-essential,” though those are not terms the government actually uses.

“It’s irresponsible for Congress to allow government operations to shut down, but in the event this does happen, many federal employees are deemed ‘non-essential’ and are told to stay home,” Budd said in a message on his Facebook page. “The first step in addressing our bloated bureaucracy should be increasing the transparency within our own government.”