Although many federal employees say that they have become so accustomed to government shutdown threats that they tune them out, should the threat turn into reality they could be directly affected.
During a shutdown, agencies that are not funded through regular annual appropriations—the Postal Service being the major example—continue operations without impact. The same is true of self-funding operations within some agencies that otherwise depend on regular appropriations. Other special considerations arise where programs have multi-year funding, unspent funds carried forward, or trust funds or similar funds that would allow normal operations to continue, at least for a time. In addition, this time funding may be enacted on time for some agencies that rely on appropriations, although not for others.
Where there is continued funding for one reason or another, employees would be “exempt” from being put on unpaid furlough. In addition, some employees elsewhere are kept at work because of the nature of their job, commonly for safety, health or security reasons; they are deemed “excepted” and they are expected to continue working, although in unpaid status for the meantime. They are guaranteed by law to be paid for that time since the government has incurred an obligation to them.
For employees who are put on unpaid furloughs (“non-excepted,” not “non-essential”), there is no such assurance. In past shutdowns they have been paid as well, but that requires action by Congress each time. That issue most likely would be addressed in whatever measure eventually passes to restore funding. Exactly when employees would be paid depends on the length of the closing and payroll cycles, also an uncertainty at this point.
See also Rules on Federal Government Furloughs at ask.FEDweek.com
FEHB coverage continues during a shutdown, with the employee share to be paid retroactively later if an employee’s pay for a pay period would not be large enough to cover it. Premiums under FEDVIP and FLTCIP insurance similarly would accumulate but if a shutdown went on for a number of weeks, those programs would directly bill enrollees. FEGLI insurance continues without cost to the employee. There would be no impact on an employee’s eventual retirement benefit unless an employee was on unpaid furlough for more than six months in a calendar year. Employees may invest in the TSP only when they are in paid status.