Federal workers, here's what to expect if the government (partially) shuts down

Matt Saintsing
December 21, 2018 - 12:42 pm

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Winter is coming. 

It’s fitting that today, the Winter Solstice (the darkest day all year), comes as a looming deadline to pass a funding package to prevent a partial government shutdown, the third in a year. 

It’s entirely possible the Senate will pass a stop-gap funding measure already approved by the House to keep the government afloat, but tonight’s midnight deadline is rapidly approaching. In the likely scenario that a deal can’t be struck on border security, the government will partially shut down. 

Here’s what to expect if that happens.

The Pentagon and Veterans’ Affairs won’t be impacted. With funding for these agencies already secured for fiscal 2019, active-duty personnel will still be paid, and your VA appointments won't be canceled.  

But the departments of Homeland Security, Transpiration, Justice, Commerce, State, Agriculture, Interior, Treasure, Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, and the Internal Revenue Service, would be impacted as the flow of federal dollars would stop. 

A gap in dedicated funding would impact around 420,000 employees who work in other parts of the government, and the vast majority (about 380,000) of employees could be expected to work without pay. 

With about one-third of new federal government hires in 2015 being veterans who swapped their uniforms for suits to serve as civilians, this shutdown could impact scores of veterans. 

If the midnight deadline comes and passes, all previously approved vacation time will be canceled, according to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). 

Exempt employees “will generally continue to be governed by the usual pay, leave, and other civil service rules, according to guidance from OPM. 

For those whose salaries are tied to appropriations from Congress, there are two categories “excepted” and “non-excepted.”

Those excepted are in jobs that are regarded as necessary, like protecting property or buildings. They’ll continue to work, but won’t be paid. 

Non-excepted employees can expect to be furloughed and will not work or be paid. Whether furlough federal employees will be paid is ultimately up to Congress and the White House. In past shutdowns, legislation was passed to pay them. 

Nevertheless, all employees will be paid for the work completed right up to the shutdown.