Federal employees should receive informal notices from their agencies by the end of today, with formal notices on their plans for next week coming sometime over the weekend.
Agencies were reportedly directed to update and post their contingency plans for a government shutdown by Friday, National Treasury Employees Union Legislative Director Jill Crissman said during a Friday afternoon call with reporters. NTEU and the American Federation of Government Employees were both on a Friday morning call with the Office of Management and Budget and Office of Personnel Management.
By the end of Friday, agencies have been directed to send informal notices to their employees detailing their status, either “excepted” or “furloughed.”
Formal notices will go out over the weekend and into Monday, Crissman said.
OMB also committed to the possibility of exploring some flexibilities with the federal payroll providers, in the event that Congress passes a bill to provide back pay for federal employees covered by annual appropriations.
Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.) have introduced that legislation, the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act, already.
If Congress passes the bill and eventually approves appropriations for fiscal 2018, federal employees would have to wait until the next coming pay period to receive back pay.
“In 2013, the shutdown lasted for 16 days, obviously that became a real problem. … They were not receiving a paycheck,” Crissman said. “We did raise the issue of OMB working with the payroll provider, should we have a shutdown, to try to make sure that paychecks could be done as soon as appropriations are enacted, versus waiting for whatever the next full payroll cycle would be normally.”
Meanwhile, departments have been updating their contingency plans throughout Friday, which are listed on OMB’s website.
AFGE National President J. David Cox said OMB was sending messages of confusion.
“[In] the call that I had with OPM and OMB, they just told agencies last night they need to begin preparing for a shutdown that could possibly happen at midnight tonight. I’ve been through government shutdowns before, and that’s the most disorderly ‘orderly’ process that I’ve ever seen. They’re responsible for an orderly shutdown of the government. It doesn’t seem very orderly. They weren’t able to answer most questions that we asked.”
One federal employee who wrote to Federal News Radio said she didn’t hear anything from her agency about planning for a possible shutdown until 3 p.m. Friday.
But OMB Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters Friday morning the White House would encourage agencies to use “carry-over” funding, or appropriations that have not been expended yet, to keep doors open and employees working past the Jan. 19 deadline.
Some agencies, like the Veterans Health Administration, said it has two-year appropriations from the 2017 budget that it would use to keep VA medical facilities open.
The Patent and Trademark Office, a fee-for-service organization, will have access to the previous year’s collections, which would enable the agency to continue operations for a “few weeks,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a message to employees.
The news about how agencies are using multi-year appropriations or “carry-over” funds to support their operations past the Friday deadline is “all over the map,” Cox said.
Several agencies have told Federal News Radio to direct questions on specific, departmental plans for communicating shutdown plans to OMB.
Employee organizations, however, were told otherwise.
“OMB was directing us to talk with all the agencies – that they were all making a lot of their own decisions,” Cox said in an interview with Federal News Radio. “This is most unorganized, chaotic government shutdown that I have ever seen in my life, and I’ve been through two major government shutdowns before. They were harmful to the American people, but at least there was a more orderly process to it.”
In the event of a government shutdown, the AFGE local in Chicago will hold a “stop the shutdown” rally Monday morning.