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The Looming Government Shutdown May Hit the Lazy Man Household

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I had been delaying this post ask long as possible in hopes that the impending government shutdown wouldn't happen. Assuming you haven't been living in a bunker somewhere, you've probably heard about it. To dumb the down significantly, a bunch of politicians can't agree on the budget. Without a budget in place, the parts of government is essentially going to shutdown to avoid spending money. This means that many employees will be furloughed, essentially a forced stoppage of work without pay. This happens tonight if a deal can't be struck.

If the government shutdown occurs not all employees will be furloughed. Some government workers have critical jobs to the safety of the country and there is a plan to keep them working and paid. The Army and Navy are two examples of employees who will continue to work and get paid. People working a desk job at the FDA though, well, they are going to be furloughed. This puts my wife (and us) in an interesting position. She does have a desk job, so her position is one that would be furloughed. However, she's an officer in the military and the organization of officers correctly points out that the official guidelines on record require that they be exempt from furloughs.

When I read about this yesterday, I got a tiny bit excited. I thought that this could mean that the job is furloughed, but due to the technicality, my wife would still have to be paid. Of course this is completely counter-productive to the whole idea of the furloughing in the first place. However, we are talking the government here, so I wouldn't put it past them. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed last night when we received notification on how a government shutdown may effect us. It didn't give much explanation and felt like a Mom's response of "Because I said so." The notification declared that employees in my wife's situation would be divided into three groups:

  • Excepted from furlough with pay - Employees will report to work as usual and get paid for it.
  • Non-excepted from furlough without pay - Employees will not report to work and will not get paid.
  • Excepted from furlough WITHOUT PAY - Employees are expected to report to work as usual and NOT get paid for it.

So much for my dream of my wife not working and getting paid for it. The first two groups aren't very interesting as that's what is going on with the rest of the government workers from my understanding. The third group, well, I have a problem with it. I could see if these were people who had a part in the budget debate - this may force them to come to resolution quickly. However, a bunch of politicians failing to put together a budget shouldn't force people to work without pay. I would expect people falling into that group to lawyer-up quickly. I'm not an expert in labor law, but I'm going to go out on a limb and put forth the idea that forcing people to work without pay is wrong. I almost want to see a government shutdown so that this can get exposed.

For those employees who fall in the later two groups of not getting paid, I feel for them. I can only hope that they have a good emergency fund saved up and that they know how to save money. In the Lazy Man household, we have a strong emergency fund that could last us 2-3 years if we didn't earn another dime. We didn't consciously put aside that much for an emergency fund, we just hadn't been sure to what to invest it in. The other thing is that my blogging income can completely maybe sort of support us. Over a year, it would probably come to within a couple of thousand dollars of our necessary expenses.

As you might be able to tell, there's not much worry here. In all likelihood the shutdown won't last more than a week or two anyway. If a deal is reached before the shutdown, this all becomes and exercise in hypotheticals. Still it serves as an important reminder of the value of a sound financial foundation.

Update: There's now a Furlough FAQ available. From Section D1, it sounds like excepted employees will be paid. Interestingly according to section F2, previously approved leave (vacation, etc.) is revoked and the person is considered AWOL if they don't show up for work. That doesn't quite seem right to me.

Posted on April 8, 2011.

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11 Responses to “The Looming Government Shutdown May Hit the Lazy Man Household”

  1. jdp says:

    Couple summers ago (last summer?) the couple next door worked for the state. One was laid off – no pay. The other worked in a state prison – required to work – no pay. They eventually did backpay them. But it didn’t help them figure out how to put gas in the car to get him to work when neither had an income.

  2. I can’t believe they’re making people work without pay. That’s just ridiculous. I would say – is that even legal, but then it’s the government setting the rules so they get to make up what’s legal. Do you think they are actually not going to pass the budget by tonight?

  3. Lazy Man says:

    jdp,

    If that was California, then I remember it. California paid out IOUs. That was a terrible situation. I was talking with my mother yesterday and I mentioned specifically how they don’t take IOUs at the grocery store. However, at least with the IOU, there’s a promise of some kind to pay. I generally consider it a fairly strong promise as California or the U.S. Government is not likely to disappear.

    Her Every Cent Counts,

    I think that there’s a 99% chance that they come up with some resolution, even if it’s to postpone the resolution another week or two. (Some resolution, huh?) I can’t imagine making people work without pay is legal either. I’ve found that more often than not, it’s pretty difficult to argue with the military.

    Here’s another interesting thing about my wife’s job. She works a standard 8-5, M-F, 40-hour work week (there’s an hour lunch in there). If she takes a vacation day on Friday and one on Monday, she has to use four days of vacation – even though she wouldn’t be working on Saturday and Sunday anyway. If she works on that Monday or that Friday it is only one day of vacation. Some things just defy all logic.

  4. Pat Sonnek says:

    Actually the armed forces will not get paid, they will accrue pay. The actual payments for their services will occur only after the government is back in operation. So it is much like the case of California’s IOUs.

  5. Lazy Man says:

    Thanks for the correction Pat.

    I haven’t been following other areas of the government shutdown as much as I have our particular situation. The information that our family is getting is different than what might be reported through traditional means. I get the feeling that a lot of the information that we are getting is being released to us quickly, as required by the deadline, and not necessarily extensively reviewed for accuracy.

  6. My wife faced a similar situation a while back. At first, they were going to be furloughed without pay for a couple of weeks. Not optimal, but it could be worse. She was going to have to take unpaid time off after our youngest kid was born anyway, so it was budget-neutral for us.

    Then they were going to take a temporary pay cut equal to 2 week’s pay. This cause an uproar.

    Finally, they quietly sliced off a chunk of their retirement funding for something like 18 months.

    The net financial effect was WORSE than not getting a pay check for 2 weeks … but since take home pay wasn’t affected, the reaction wasn’t as strong.

  7. phr3dly says:

    While I certainly feel for the individuals involved, my inner-libertarian is silently clapping with glee.

    The gist is that those jobs which are provided for by the constitution will continue. Those which are not, will not. Awesome! This is what we need. Smaller government, smaller payroll. Free those furloughed to unleash their creative talents in the private sector, creating products, innovating, and growing the economy instead of sapping it!

    Unfortunately what will actually happen is a budget deal will happen, the furloughed workers will be hired back, and these unconstitutional jobs will be given backpay for work they didn’t do. Swell.

  8. Lazy Man says:

    phr3dly,

    I see what you are saying, but the constitution surely didn’t provide for any jobs in information technology. That’s just one of many example for why your idea doesn’t work.

    And keep in mind that furloughing doesn’t actually put people to work in the private sector. You’d need real job cuts. People who are furloughed still retain their job and the government still retains the same head count.

    In short, you are rooting for something that is a completely different topic.

  9. Not to mention that some governmental entities save lives. A research hospital affiliated with a public university, for example. (State governments, but still governments).

  10. matt says:

    Lazy man needs to not be so lazy about checking typos. It’s obvious you don’t even read through what you wrote…not even once.

  11. Lazy Man says:

    Matt,

    Yes, I’ve admitted to it on a number of occasions. However, congrats on your “discovery.”

    It’s a blog. It doesn’t have an editor.

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