Federal Workers Learning Their Fate
Policy + Politics

Federal Workers Learning Their Fate

The Obama administration began telling the vast federal workforce Thursday by e-mail and letter which employees would be required to report during a federal shutdown and which ones should stay home if the government’s doors are closed.

With the prospect of a shutdown looming Saturday, and most employees wondering what to do, officials said those notifications should be completed by Friday.

If there is a shutdown, about 800,000 of the roughly 2.1 million federal workers nationwide are expected to be furloughed, with exceptions for national security and other essential employees.

But uncertainty could linger into next week if a shutdown goes into effect, as some workers report to work to shutter their offices and other agencies are able to stay open for slightly longer periods, officials and workers said.

The notifications came as the government continued to try to explain which federal agencies and entities would and would not be open in the event of a shutdown, and what the overall impact of a shutdown would be.

“It would have very real effects on the services the American people rely on, as well as on the economy as a whole,” Jeff Zients, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters at the White House. “It’s a hard, hard, hard situation for people to operate with this level of uncertainty.”

As Washington teemed with spring visitors Thursday and the last weekend of the National Cherry Blossom Festival approached, the prospect of closed museums and offices, idled workers and disappointed tourists grew larger.

And federal workers expressed frustration at the chaos and uncertainty.

“It puts me in a bind,” said George Mitchell, who works in the Department of Health and Human Services, as he stood outside a General Services Administration building on Seventh Street SW.

“Things are tight enough as it is,” he said. “The president has frozen [pay for] us for the next two years. . . . So we can’t get promotions or pay increases for the next two years. Yet still the bills keep coming. The light bill’s got to be paid. The rent’s still got to be paid. . . . It’s tight, and it’s stressful.”

A woman who didn’t want her name used but said she worked for the Agriculture Department said: “I’m in budget, so I know all the confusion it causes.

“We’re just ending the sixth continuing resolution [to fund the government]. We have to do the same kind of work that we have to do for an annual appropriation, over and over again, over and over again. . . . It gets old.”

For Mark Thalacker, who works in the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement office, definitive word came down at a meeting Thursday: His office would be sent home. But his wife, who works as an administrator for a government contractor, was in limbo: She would have to work through the weekend helping to identify which company employees would be furloughed and which would report to work.

Read more at The Washington Post.