Fedweek

Washington DC - Jan 2019: Union members and other federal employees rally to call for an end to the partial government shutdown in front of the AFL-CIO headquarters building.

In a signal of what might lie ahead if the government again goes into a partial shutdown, 55 percent of federal employees responding to this year’s workplace survey said the shutdown of last December-January negatively affected their work.

Ten percent called the impact “extremely” negative, 12 percent “very” negative, 17 percent “moderately” negative and 16 percent “slightly” negative. Further, the shutdown was a contributing reason for a third of the 30 percent of respondents who said they are considering leaving the government; 2 percent said they are looking to leave specifically because of the shutdown.

Of the work impacts, the most common were delayed work (cited by 67 percent of those seeing some effect), reduced customer service (48) and missed deadlines (46). Employees also cited the time lost in restarting work that had been interrupted (42), unmanageable workloads (30), cutback of critical work (25), unrecoverable loss of work (21) and unmet statutory requirements (12).

The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey this year contained questions related to the shutdown that had ended not long before the survey was sent, in addition to some 100 questions asked each year about workplace matters. Most of the 45 percent who said there was no impact on their duties presumably work at agencies that had funding in place and were not shut down; those agencies together accounted for the majority of the federal workforce, about 1.3 million of the total 2.1 million non-postal employees.

The survey did not ask about impacts on personal finances other than regarding whether employees stayed on paid status. But some employees have described missing rent or mortgage payments, falling behind on other loans, needing to seek financial and even food assistance, and more in the 35-day shutdown, the longest on record.

If another shutdown happens, it would be more widespread than the previous one, since no agencies currently have regular appropriations in place. Temporary funding authority for all agencies expires November 21 and Congress and the White House have not agreed on a course of action. The most commonly used option would be another short extension until sometime in December; other possibilities include one carrying into February or March, or even potentially continuing through the entire fiscal year, through next September 30.

Some agencies, or parts of them, are not affected by an appropriations lapse because they are self-funding (including the USPS and the TSP) or have other types of available funds that would allow them to continue operating, at least for a time.

See also, rules on federal government furloughs at ask.FEDweek.com