Pay and benefits reminders should a government shutdown occur

| Dec 11, 2017 | Employee Rights

On Friday, President Trump signed a two-week spending bill to avert a shutdown through Dec. 22. If necessary, additional time-limited measures could keep the government running until a permanent budget deal can be reached.

Of course, there’s a chance we’ll see another government shutdown, and agencies are already in planning for the eventuality. What do you need to keep in mind?

Not everyone will be furloughed in a shutdown

Federal employees whose pay gets funded via annual appropriations could be furloughed unless they engage in “emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property” or other work that is excepted from furlough. Political appointees are typically not furloughed.

Whether your job entitles you to a furlough exception is typically determined by your agency’s senior management and legal counsel. If you are excepted (expected to work), you will be paid once a continuing resolution or new appropriations package is signed into law.

Furloughed workers will probably still get paid

The stressful news for government workers is that a government shutdown could involve furloughs. The good news is that Congress probably has your back.

After the 2013 government shutdown, Congress included back pay for federal employees in its ultimate spending deal. The government was shut down for 16 days, and federal employees received back pay for “their regular standard rate of compensation for the period of such lapse in appropriations, as soon as practicable.”

Several lawmakers have already said they plan to do the same if another shutdown occurs, and some legislation to ensure that has already been introduced.

You will continue receiving medical, life and disability benefits

Even if your agency doesn’t make pay its insurance premiums on time, the OPM says you will still be covered by your health insurance. Your share of the premium for the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program will simply build up and be deducted from your pay once you receive it.

If you are furloughed, you still have Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance coverage for up to 12 months without cost to either you or your agency.

As for the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program, you will begin receiving direct bills if the shutdown lasts for three pay periods. At that point, you need to pay the premiums if you want to remain covered.

The Federal Employees Retirement System, the Civil Service Retirement System and the Thrift Savings Plan will continue to pay out.

For additional information on shutdown furloughs, see the Office of Personnel Management’s guidance.

If the government shuts down and a dispute arises regarding your status, pay or benefits, talk to an attorney experienced in federal employment law.

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