5 percent of federal workforce to be furloughed Friday

Thursday - 5/23/2013, 5:40pm EDT

About five percent of the federal workforce will be off Friday.

An administration official confirmed that about 115,000 employees from six agencies will be furloughed Friday.

The Housing and Urban Development Department, the IRS, the Office of Management and Budget and the Environmental Protection Agency will keep a majority of their staff at home. Employees at the departments of Labor and Interior also will be taking furlough days.

HUD, IRS, OMB and EPA will not be offering services to the public or internal to other agencies, except for emergency personnel.

A senior official at HUD said more than 8,400 employees will not be at work Friday.

"Because all HUD offices will be closed tomorrow, there will be no walk-in services available to members of the public," the official said. "For example, among the many impacted will be homeowners looking for housing counseling assistance, developers and municipalities who are seeking technical assistance for or approval of their projects, or a homeless housing provider seeking guidance on how to maximize their resources. Some HUD services will remain available to the public, including the FHA Resource Center, the HOPE hotline, and the FHA National Servicing Center; however contractors manning those operations will be unable to escalate policy clarification or case-specific questions to HUD employees due to the furlough, and clients may be required to call back on the next business day if needed."

The official added HUD selected specific days to do their best to minimize the impact on their customers, which is why furlough days will either precede a federal holiday or be on a Monday or Friday.

Friday is HUD's first furlough day. Employees there will have to take seven, in all, by Aug. 30.

IRS: Taxpayer Services to be affected

The IRS issued a press release last week detailing the impact of furloughs on its services.

The tax agency said all toll-free hotlines, the Taxpayer Advocate Service and the agency's nearly 400 taxpayer assistance centers nationwide will be closed. Additionally, IRS employees will not process tax returns or do any compliance- related activities.

"Because none of the furlough days are considered federal holidays, the shutdown will have no impact on any tax-filing deadlines. The IRS will be unable to accept or acknowledge receipt of electronically-filed returns on any day the agency is shut down," the IRS stated. "Similarly, tax-payment deadlines are also unaffected. The only tax payment deadlines coinciding with any of the furlough days relate to employment and excise tax deposits made by business taxpayers."

In all, the IRS said it will furlough almost all 90,000 employees a total of five days through Aug. 30.

Park Police notified of furloughs

Interior Spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw said the U.S. Park Police has already issued furlough notices, but the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have not yet issued furlough notices.

"The Department of the Interior has already taken aggressive steps to reduce spending across the agency and will continue to look for innovative ways to cut costs while preserving our mission-essential activities," she said.

An Interior official also said about 50 percent of the agency's budget supports staff, double the average of federal agencies.

"Implementation of the sequester has required difficult choices with direct impacts to employees and our mission. We have implemented hiring freezes, decreased overtime and comp time, and frozen awards. We have also reduced or eliminated travel, conferences, training, grant programs, contracts and cooperative agreements," the official said. "Our summer field season is our busiest time of the year, however, we have had to reduce or cancel seasonal hiring to meet the reductions. Since the sequester reductions must be implemented across- the-board, some bureaus will have to furlough employees."

EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe said earlier this year that each EPA employee will be furloughed less than 10 days, with the number reduced to no more than 79 hours for fiscal 2013.

EPA will reexamine its budget in mid-June, Perciasepe said, to determine if there is flexibility in how many furlough hours employees will be required to take during the rest of the fiscal year. Right now, it appears that it will not be more than 79 hours total.

A request to EPA for more details on the impact of furloughs was not immediately returned.

Labor started furloughs April 15 and will continue them through September 21. More than 4,000 Labor employees received furlough notices.

A spokesman there tells Federal News Radio, "In agreement with unions at DoL, the department allows employees flexibility to identify their furlough dates, as long as they are approved by a supervisor, at least half of the required days are taken by July 13, and the furloughs are taken in no less than 4-hour increments."

Federal News Radio's Jack Moore contributed to this report

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