As Congress approaches its Oct. 1 deadline for funding the Federal government, employees and contractors can stay prepared by knowing what to expect in the event of a shutdown.

If that happens, only essential employees, who are approved in advance, will be able to work. Full-time employees or contractors are deemed essential if they support public safety or other critical functions.

The essential employees include a small subset of the IT staff at government agencies and the designation of essential employees does not consider keeping normal operations going. For example, employees who are tasked with modernizing systems wouldn’t be deemed essential.

Nonessential employees would not report to work, would not check email, and would not log in off-site.  Several agencies have developed Web portals to deliver information to employees about shutdowns.  This is done so they can get updates without getting email, because checking email is considered a form of work.

Contractors cannot bill the government unless it is open, and they’re generally approved to take paid time off, or to go without pay, according to a Federal contractor who spoke to MeriTalk on background.

“As we are witnessing right now in the disaster that is happening in Houston, there is no such thing as a good government shutdown,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. “People want government to work when they need it. We need the Federal government operating at full capacity. That includes everything from providing relief to Hurricane Harvey victims, protecting our country from cyberattacks, and ensuring people receive the government services they rely on. It’s no time to be talking about a government shutdown. We need a responsible budget adopted as quickly as possible.”

The White House agreed with Connolly, saying that they wanted to focus on helping the flood victims.

“We do not expect nor is there any reason for a lapse in funding at this point,” said Jacob Wood, associate deputy director for communications at the White House Office of Management and Budget. “Our current efforts are focused on disaster relief and Hurricane Harvey.”


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Morgan Lynch
Morgan Lynch
Morgan Lynch is a Staff Reporter for MeriTalk covering Federal IT and K-12 Education.