With the partial government shutdown now well into its second week, the impact on affected agencies, their employees and their services to the public is starting to change.
The partial shutdown affects nine Cabinet departments and numerous smaller agencies also funded by the seven regular appropriations bills that still have not been enacted, with total employment of around 800,000. However, figures vary on how many employees are on unpaid furlough (“non-exempt”) versus how many are still on the job (“exempt”) but unpaid for the meantime.
A Senate estimate issued before the shutdown started put the number in the former category at 380,000, based on agency shutdown contingency plans, although later assessments say the actual number has been somewhat less. That’s due to agencies using special sources of funding to keep some employees on the job—and in paid status—who otherwise would be furloughed.
The EPA, for example, kept nearly all employees in paid status for the first week of the shutdown, but now has put its contingency plan into effect. The Smithsonian Institution, which has largely remained open, similarly is running out of available usable funds.
The FDA also has remained almost fully in operation by using an account funded by fees it charges to businesses applying for approval of drugs, although it’s unclear how long that will last. The same is true at several departments where “working capital” funds—fees they charge other agencies to perform certain work—have kept some employees not only on the job but in paid status.
As shutdowns drag on, agencies tend to start calling back employees from furlough to get needed work accomplished. In the shutdown that exceeded two weeks in 2013, DoD and SSA for example brought back numerous furloughed employees, although they remained in unpaid status for the meantime like “exempt” employees.