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.
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