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Amid new gov't shutdown rumbles, things fed workers should know

It was only a few months ago that we were reflecting back on how difficult a year 2014 had been for the Merit Systems Protection Board. As we noted in March, the MSPB started the year deluged with 30,000 disputes over furloughs triggered by the 2013 sequestration. At the same time, it was scrambling to deal with issues presented by speedier appeals processes for the senior executive service.

All in all it was a difficult time. And now there are rumblings that we could be in for something of a furlough reboot. If that happens, there could be a new wave of disputes before the MSPB.

The trigger this time according to news reports is the budget and funding for Planned Parenthood. Twenty-eight Republicans in the House are on the record as saying they will vote against any proposal that includes money for Planned Parenthood. This because of so-far-unsubstantiated allegations the group has profited from selling aborted fetus parts.

Current funding of the government runs out Sept. 30, raising concerns in some quarters of a 2013 reprise. So here are some matters it might be good to review.

  • Not everyone is immediately furloughed. Some emergency workers are exempt from furlough and a 2013 document from the Office of Personnel Management notes that special teams in each agency are assigned to determine if others might be exempted.

  • Not all contracts or grants dry up with shutdowns. If funds have already been allocated for work, then the contract can continue. There may also be conditions under which new contracts are started.

  • Pay and benefits could be affected. In 2013, furloughed workers were eligible for unemployment. But all that money had to be paid back later when Congress agreed to pay workers retroactively for the shutdown. Furloughs could also throw something of a wrench into health benefits and how premiums are paid.

  • A shutdown isn't certain. Even if lawmakers can't agree on a budget plan, they could pass a continuing resolution to keep things funded at existing levels for some set time. At the same time, a CR doesn't necessarily mean no shutdown. Congress could vote to let some agencies close as their allocations run dry.

As with many things in life, being forewarned is tantamount to being forearmed.

Source: FederalTimes.com, "6 things to know if the government shuts down," Carten Cordell, Sept. 9, 2015

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