With the government shutdown rolling into week three, that means pulling even tighter on the purse strings for many furloughed federal employees, or finding other work until the government reopens.
When Mike Endale, principal and software architect at the web solution firm BLEN Corp, received an email from a furloughed federal employee looking for temporary freelance working, it sparked an idea.
“We said, ‘huh, how can we help?’ We looked around, and sure enough, people were creating Google docs,” he said on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp. “We reached out to them and said, ‘we’re going to build a site around this and import some of the data.'”
In five hours from idea to execution, Endale and his firm launched the website unfurlough.us, providing furloughed workers access to freelance or temporary job postings.
The site is free of charge, and BLEN Corp does not take any cut or percentage from the employees’ earnings.
It has two sections — one where companies can post their job openings, and the other where employees looking for work can post their names and resumes.
“It’s wide-ranging, with some companies looking for bloggers, others looking for iPhone developers…market research, sales,” Endale said. “Those types of jobs are being listed on the site and they’re added every day.”
The website launched Friday, and 78 jobs were posted. By Monday, between 10 and 15 of the jobs were already closed because of an overwhelming number of applicants.
“These companies, they’re getting a tremendous amount of response for these jobs. And we’re being asked to take them down,” Endale said.
Most companies on the website are start-ups, along with a few think tanks and non- profit organizations. Many are located in the Washington, D.C., area, but postings are coming in from as far as California and Oregon.
Endale said a notice at the bottom of the site reminds federal employees about ethics and guidance. “They have to make sure with their agency that there is no conflict of interest.”
Although the website is designed primarily with temporary gigs in mind, some furloughed workers may be making a more permanent change.
“Mashable found a furloughed employee who had decided not to return,” Endale said. “The National Journal also mentioned a couple of people who found a job through unfurlough.us, and it looks like they’re going to stay on with the company they found because they really like it.”
When the government eventually does reopen, Endale is unsure about what will happen to the website.
“Our hope is that the government shutdown ends and everybody goes back to work, because the site was not meant to be long term,” he said. “But what we’re toying around with internally is to actually see if there’s any potential to convert the site into a more permanent freelance gig site for government employees to do part- time.”
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, which airs from 6-9 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, DC region and online everywhere. Tom has 30 years experience in journalism, mostly in technology markets. Before coming to Federal News Radio, he was a long-serving editor-in-chief of Government Computer News and Washington Technology magazines.