Government employees to bear brunt of government shutdown

Cubicle farm

Government employees will be affected most by a government shutdown, most of whom will be white collar workers outside of some essential core agencies. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

There is a lot of speculation about whether a government shutdown will occur if Congress fails to agree on budget proposals. If the shutdown does happen, it may win some ideological kudos from some people, but there will be consequences. Government employees would feel most of the pinch.

Basic services would continue under federal shutdown

The current battle over spending and deficits may force the federal government to shut down temporarily when it reaches its debt ceiling, which will happen by May 16. If a shutdown occurs, basic services will continue. The United States Postal Service will continue to operate, as that service is mostly self financed. According to MSNBC, any government service “involving the safety of human life or the protection of property” cannot legally be stopped in a government budget showdown. Social Security benefits would also likely be exempt as well.

Government workers to pay the price

The people who stand to lose the most are government employees. Some will not have to worry; air traffic controllers will still be needed, and allowing members of the military to miss a paycheck would be political suicide. However, employees in agencies that are involved in clerical, managerial or financial roles will probably be put on a furlough. Many of these employees have already had their pay frozen by the Obama administration. Contractors who work for the government, many of whom are small businesses, will also lose revenue, according to the Wall Street Journal. Any revenue that contractors or government employees lose might not be reimbursed.


There are some contingency plans in case a government shutdown happens. According to Credit Union Times, the Cabrillo Credit Union in San Diego will offer zero percent interest furlough loans to its members who are temporarily laid off by a federal government shutdown. That organization offered similar assistance in the 1995 – 1996 shutdown, and government employees should check with their local credit union to see if there are similar programs available if they are members. If the shutdown does occur, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said he would not rule out dipping into the Social Security Trust Fund and other sources to keep some government services fiscally viable until the shutdown subsides, according to Reuters, which means that some employees and services may continue to be funded.


Wall Street Journal



Credit Union Times

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