FEDweek

Shutdown Leaves “Non-Essential” Feds Cold; Eyeing Next Budget Deadline

The main reaction to the three-day partial government shutdown from federal employees seems to be one of anger and frustration, aggravated by the fact that the measure ending the shutdown effective yesterday (January 23) set up yet another deadline threatening a funding lapse, this time February 8.

Because two of the three days of the shutdown fell over the weekend, there was relatively little impact for those two days even on employees who were subject to furlough. However, many were upset that they didn’t learn of their status, and what they were expected to do, until late on Friday the 19th, the last day of funding under the prior government extension–even though it was clear from early in the day that there were only the dimmest of hopes of preventing a shutdown.

For those furloughed , that meant not doing any work over the weekend, but still reporting for work Monday morning to conduct what the government terms “orderly” shutdown procedures such as closing out files and sending emails regarding their unavailability until funding was restored. Much of that morning was also spent parsing out what many called confusing instructions, after which they left work–just about the time a breakthrough in the Senate made it clear that the shutdown was to end within hours.

Non-Essential

Another sore point was the frequent use–mostly in the media, but also in some cases by their own agencies–of the term “nonessential” to describe those furloughed, rather than the official term “excepted.” They consider the former term an insult to their work and to themselves, and also see its potential for making a case that their jobs could be eliminated.

Feb. 8 Looms

The deal ending the shutdown did not resolve the underlying issues that had prevented the White House and Congress from agreeing on full-year funding for agencies in the fiscal year now a third past. The main one, involving immigration, was separated from the budget with the promise of voting specifically on those issues, but the precedent has been set that the threat of a shutdown can be used as leverage on unrelated issues.