The government shutdown talks are back. Have we learned anything from the latter?



It is never a good sign when, seven days before the next government shutdown deadline, the Office of Management and Budget very calmly tells agencies that “prudent management” requires them to plan for a possible disruption in funding. .

We have taken this route before.

No one wants to see it happen. Yet, as of this writing, it is not immediately clear what route Congress will take to avoid a government shutdown before Thursday’s next 11:59 pm deadline.

The Biden administration has said Congress has plenty of time to avoid a disruption in funding, which is true.

I will say the obvious: government shutdowns are not good news for anyone.

One during a pandemic would be even more terrible. Yes, Department of Veterans Affairs health workers, Transportation Security Administration airport screening officers, and border patrol officers would continue to work – without pay.

Large swathes of the Department of Health and Social Services would likely continue to work, again, without pay. But there is nothing good about a government shutdown. It’s expensive, time consuming and stressful.

During the pandemic, jobs in the federal government remained firm during the economic crisis as a point of relative stability. Now? Well, we’ll see.

The last disruption in funding dates back to 2018-2019 and affected approximately 800,000 federal employees. At the time, Congress funded some agencies, including the Department of Defense. But dozens more were unfunded by the December deadline, and they sent their workers home on leave or to the office without pay.

This time, Congress failed to pass any of the appropriation bills needed to fund the vast majority of federal agencies. A government shutdown in the coming days would impact almost all agencies, including the military.

There are of course some exceptions. Some pockets of the federal government operate with fees or other funds that do not come from annual appropriations. These organizations can be spared.

According to the Partnership for the Public Service, there have been 21 government shutdowns of a day or more since the Carter administration.

The last partial government shutdown lasted 35 days, the longest in U.S. history.

Federal employees visited food banks. They have set up GoFundMe pages online.

In a set of guidelines that, to say the least, did not suit most, the Office of Personnel Management suggested that federal authorities work with their personal lawyers or offer their painting or carpentry services in exchange for partial rent payments.

Most of the soldiers were not affected by the last partial shutdown, with the exception of the often forgotten Coast Guard. The commander is gone exasperated video messages to his employees, apologizing for a situation he described as “unacceptable” and yet beyond his control.

The latest government shutdown was so bad it forced Congress to change a few laws. None that would actually prevent a shutdown from happening in the first place; that would be too wise.

But the changes provide much-needed certainty for federal employees the next time the government closes.

First of all, you will get paid.

We always say this in past government shutdowns, but it’s a guarantee now.

In the latest debacle, former President Trump enacted the Fair Treatment of Government Employees Act, which guaranteed wage arrears to federal workers on leave and excepted affected by the 2018-19 partial shutdown – and any subsequent expiration of credits that followed.

The law also specifies that affected employees receive retroactive compensation “at the earliest possible date after the end of the expiration of credits, regardless of the scheduled pay dates.” This means that upon the end of a shutdown, payroll service providers are expected to get to work dealing with retroactive salary arrears to the relevant federal authorities, instead of simply waiting for the next scheduled paycheck.

The good news is that every time the government closes its doors, Congress doesn’t need to spend more time chopping up the details of a separate bill to reimburse the federal government. It’s already settled; Congress just needs to, you know, reopen government.

Obviously, this is still not an ideal situation. Depending on how long future government shutdowns last, with the exception of federal workers, they could miss a paycheck – the federal government missed two in the last one! – and they will not receive their salary arrears before the end of the expiry of the credits.

But the law brings some clarity to a very uncertain situation.

Second, federal employees shouldn’t see much of a disruption in their health insurance coverage during future shutdowns.

Congress made some federal health and life insurance services “essential” in a recent defense policy bill, and the OPM has implemented those changes in the past year.

This means that employees will be allowed to enroll or make changes to enrollment in the Federal Employee Health Insurance Program (FEHBP) and Federal Employee Group Life Insurance Program (FEGLI) upon registration. future loan lapses.

Previously, employees on leave or those working without pay during previous government shutdowns could not change FEHB registrations as they were placed in the “unpaid” status.

Some struggled to enroll new dependents during the last partial shutdown, as federal employees who would otherwise implement these changes have, in some cases, been placed on leave.

That should change the next time there is a government shutdown, whether it’s in a few days or a few years.

As for the upcoming deadline, well, there’s not much you can do except anticipate the possibility and wait.

We meet on the other side.

Almost useless factoid

By David Thornton

A recording in the Nixon Presidential Library was rediscovered in 1997 in which Richard Nixon reflects that, if rap music had been popular when he was young, he might have become a rapper rather than a politician.

Source: Mental Floss


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