Furloughs possible in 2017 - www.fedweek.com

OPM has reissued its guide to “administrative” furloughs—also called save-money furloughs—that calls attention to policies that last were widely used in the spring and summer of 2013 due to “sequestration” budget limits. For example, it says: employees ordered to be furloughed cannot substitute paid time off instead; there is generally no impact on insurance benefits or on future retirement benefit calculations; leave accumulation similarly generally continues unchanged; furloughed employees can take outside work but remain subject to ethical restrictions; and they may be eligible for unemployment compensation, but states typically pay those benefits only after unpaid time exceeds a threshold. Prospects of furloughs lie ahead in the remainder of the current fiscal year because the White House has requested additional funds for certain defense and homeland security spending while seeking to partially offset that by shifting $18 billion from domestic agency spending. That issue should reach a decision within about a month, since a temporary spending bill covering agencies other than the VA—which has full-year funding—is to expire April 28. Should Congress agree to the funding shift, affected agencies would need to find savings—of amounts less than those that triggered the 2013 furloughs, but over a shorter time. However, the outcome of that proposal is uncertain, and Democrats on Capitol Hill already have raised the possibility of allowing a partial government shutdown rather than agree to the administration’s proposals. In that case, a different type of furlough, a “shutdown” furlough would occur, with varied impact among agencies due to their funding sources and exceptions for certain positions. Longer term, the administration’s budget proposals for the fiscal year starting in October could threaten save-money furloughs, as well as RIFs—potentially softened, at least in part, by early retirement and buyout offers. Those proposals already have raised the prospects of a similar showdown then threatening a partial shutdown.