1. News & Issues
Robert Longley

How a Shutdown Might Impact Federal Employees

By September 25, 2013

Follow me on:

If the government does shutdown next week, members of the U.S. military and "essential" civilian federal employees may not get paid on time, but they will get paid. For the other federal workers who may be sent home from work, the financial future is not so clear.

Monday, September 30, is the deadline. Unless Congress resolves the latest and certainly not the last budget standoff by midnight, many agencies of the U.S. government will be forced by the Antideficiency Act to shut their doors and tell their employees to stay home.

By law, however, about 2.7 million federal employees will remain at work even during a government shutdown. They are all the members of the U.S. military and more than 1.2 million civilian employees with jobs considered essential to ensuring "national security, public safety, and health and welfare."

While the law that says all military and essential civilian employees must remain at work also says they must be paid, it does not say when.

Federal government employees get paid every two weeks -- on the 1st and 15th for military personnel -- for work performed during the preceding two weeks. So, even if a shutdown goes into effect on October 1, they would get a paycheck that day. If the shutdown ends in less than 2 weeks, the October 15 paychecks would show up on time. A longer shutdown, however, could result in late checks for military and essential civilian employees. But they would eventually get paid.

But for the more than 800,000 non-military, non-essential federal employees who would be sent home, checks due after October 15, may never come. There is no law requiring that they be paid during a shutdown or that they be paid retroactively after the shutdown ends.

The good news for these employees is that after the longest shutdown in history, which lasted 21 days during December 1995 and January 1996, Congress passed a bill directing the Treasury to reimburse them for missed paychecks.

Also See: History and Effects of Government Shutdowns

The bad news is that already faced with the ongoing budget sequestration, Congress may not vote for back pay this time.

In addition, before all previous shutdowns, Congress had managed to pass annual budget appropriations bills authorizing funds for many of the major federal agencies, thus allowing them to keep their employees working - and being paid - during the shutdown. So far this year, those bills have not been passed.

Also See:
Shutdowns Have Not Stopped Social Security Checks
Key Functions Continue During a Government Shutdown


September 27, 2013 at 10:24 pm
(1) Essential Gov't worker says:

The information in this very faulty. Federal employees are paid every two weeks not on the 1st & 15th of each month. Oct. 3, is the next official pay day for Federal employees, but the EFT was initiated today, Fri. Sept. 27. The next date for an EFT is Oct. 11. For those funds to be transferred the Gov’t must be back up an running by Mon. Oct. 7. EFT only take place on Fridays and it is unlikely that if the gov’t isn’t operating on Mon. Oct. 7 that essential employees will be paid on the 18th. Also, if the gov’t returns to operational status on a Continuing resolution, that resolution will not necessarily provided funding for essential employees to receive their back pay. It may only include current pay.

September 28, 2013 at 6:02 am
(2) usgovinfo says:

The Antideficiency Act specifically allows for the payment of essential personnel (“involving the safety of human life or the protection of property”) and OMB has never failed to define such “essential” components and provide for their payment during shutdowns.



October 2, 2013 at 2:37 pm
(3) Kathy Powers says:

I’ll bet Congress members receive their paychecks on time!

October 2, 2013 at 11:42 pm
(4) Someone says:

I find it interesting how everyone glosses over “the essential employees will get paid, maybe not on time”. In todays economy, most Americans I know are living paycheck-to-paycheck and those essential employees must report to work without pay (remember there are costs involved in working as well) or risk termination and cancellation of their pensions plan; and continue to pay for their expenses, travel, travel, mortgages etc. They are affected as much as everyone else one way or another. The damages this is doing to the average American .is devastating

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>
Top Related Searches
  • federal employees
  • ©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.