Shutdown, Tax Refunds and Social Security Checks

Thursday - 4/7/2011, 4:00am EDT

If there is a government shutdown, not to worry!

There are two hotlines to call if you have problems (like not getting) your federal income tax refund or your monthly Social Security payment.

One of the lines is for Republicans. One is for Democrats. Please, no cheating! Crank calling the opposition is not allowed.

Republican Hotline: Call the White House. You will, of course, blame the President exclusively for both wanting and causing the shutdown by failing to accept the House-Republican proposed spending cut plan.

Democratic Hotline: Call the House of Representatives. Say you will talk to any Republican representative or staffer. You will, of course, blame the GOP majority in the House for both wanting and causing the shutdown by failing to send the President a spending plan he could accept.

The partial purpose of the shutdown, if there is one, is to make sure the other political party gets the blame even though bipartisans (at last count there were 19 in the Washington area) claim it takes two to tango. Or not tango.

While the politicians of both parties are playing chicken with each other (after the last Congress and the current Congress failed to approve budgets) there will regrettably be some collateral damage. To you, not them!

Members of Congress and staffs will continue to get paid even as hundreds of thousands of federal workers (and an even larger number of federal contractors) don't get paid. Limos will roll and free parking at the airports will continue. For them.

If there is a shutdown there is a better than even chance Congress will approve makeup pay for feds, although that is not guaranteed. For most federal contractors, who outnumber feds six to one, no work generally means no pay.

Social Security Administration employees say there will be service cuts if there is a shutdown. SSA won't comment, very possibly because the White House has told federal agencies not to spell out shutdown plans. (Meantime, the American Federation of Government Employees has sued, demanding a little transparency regarding the likely impact of a shutdown.) The government continues to have no comment on its no comment policy.

Refunds from the Internal Revenue Service are always a popular item this time of year. People who owe tend to file late. Those who think they will get refunds tend to file earlier. Thanks to the miracle of e-filing and direct deposit, many early-filers have already received (and many spent) their refunds. But if you've got one in the pipeline and there is a shutdown lotsa luck!

The Office of Personnel Management has done a good job (as in a 56 page, detailed memo) telling feds what will happen to their benefits (mostly nothing) in the event of a shutdown. To see that, click here.

But most workers, their clients and taxpayers don't know what services will or will not be provided.

In the meantime, if you'd like to hear, and learn, more about the ins and outs of who would be in and out during a shutdown, give a listen to our "Your Turn with Mike Causey" show this week with guests Colleen Kelley, president of the NTEU, and Steve Watkins editor of the Federal Times and senior writer Steve Losey. You can hear them all by clicking here.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

MSNBC reports those "hands-free, automatic faucets that seem so clean and germ-free might actually be housing more bacteria than the old-fashioned, manual kind, according to a new Johns Hopkins University study." Why this is a NUF: "This research doesn't excuse you from post-bathroom hand-washing."


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Furloughed feds may surrender smartphones
If you are a federal worker, and there's a shutdown, you could still have to go into work on Monday, if only for a few minutes. An administration official tells the Wall Street Journal that non-essential workers would have to come in to hand over any government issued Blackberrys, and laptops.

OMB: Shutdown could affect 800,000 feds
The number of federal employees who could face furloughs would likely come close to numbers seen during the 1995 shutdown, said a senior administration official.

How to communicate with feds to calm shutdown fears
John Salamone, former executive director of the Chief Human Capital Officers Council at the Office of Personnel Management, says managers need to address their employees' low morale.