Shutdown effects continue to ripple through agencies

Monday - 10/7/2013, 6:16pm EDT

Updated Oct. 8 at 4:45 p.m. to include information about VA furloughs

Congress' failure to agree on a short-term funding measure last week immediately threw agencies into shutdown mode, shutting offices and sending hundreds of thousands of federal employees home without pay.

But as the shutdown stretches into its second week with no end in sight, a round of second-order effects is beginning to ripple throughout government.

The National Labor Relations Board closed shop last week like most of the federal government because of the lapse in appropriations.

Now, the protracted shutdown has indefinitely postponed through the end of next week all hearings on unfair labor practices, according to a notice posted in the Federal Register.

The board has also postponed all NLRB election hearings — which it uses to certify and verify the workplace elections under which employees vote to join a union. While the government remains shut down, the NLRB is also unable to accept documents filed online via its website. For every day the board's offices are closed, the deadline for filing paperwork will be extended.

VA, NRC running out of carry-over funding

While most of the Veterans Affairs Department is exempt from furloughs, the agency is preparing to send thousands of workers home without pay because it has run out of carry-over funding from fiscal 2013.

VA announced this week that more than 7,000 Veterans Benefit Administration employees and another 2,750 IT workers would be furloughed and access to regional VBA offices suspended because of the expirations of funds.

The furloughs will snag progress on clearing a longstanding backlog of disability claims, which now stands at more than 418,500 claims.

"This announcement appears consistent with VA's contingency plans, although it provides details and drives home the point that this shutdown has serious consequences," said Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine) in a statement. "While payments will continue to be issued to veterans, Congress must act soon to prevent any future delays.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee is slated to hold a hearing on the impact of the government shutdown on VA benefits and services.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission remains open thanks to cash on hand that has allowed the agency to operate without curtailing operations or furloughing staff.

However, NRC will exhaust those funds on Wednesday, according to a notice from NRC to its contractors posted on FedBizOpps.gov

GSA attempts to head off concerns from landlords

Meanwhile, the General Services Administration attempted to head off concerns about its management of federal buildings, publishing a letter to both landlords and utilities on FedBizOpps.gov.

In the letter to private-sector landlords, GSA's Jennifer Smith, acting associate commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, wrote that GSA expects landlords to continue providing space and services to agency renters during the funding lapse.

"Assuming the current funding lapse is brief, GSA's ability to make timely rental payments will not be affected," Smith wrote in the letter

In the letter to utility companies, Kenneth Shutika, deputy director of GSA's energy division, said that utility services for federal buildings are considered "excepted activities," meaning that agencies are allowed to incur those obligations — even if they can't pay them back right away.

Utilities with a meter-read end date predating the shutdown would be paid on time, according to the letter. For meter-read dates after Oct. 1, however, "GSA will process payments as soon as appropriations covering all or a portion of fiscal year 2014 are received," the letter stated .

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