OPM answers shutdown questions

Wednesday - 4/6/2011, 8:09am EDT

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

If the government shuts down Saturday, federal employees' health insurance will continue, but deductions to pay for vision and dental as well as long term care will cease for non-excepted, or furloughed, workers.

The Office of Personnel Management detailed these and other facts in new guidance issued Tuesday night to prepare federal employees for a possible government shutdown on April 9.

OPM's guidance offers answers to 14 questions about everything from, can an employee work during a furlough to whether feds are entitled to unemployment compensation during a furlough.

"Federal agencies do not have the authority to pay their employees during a shutdown, regardless of whether the employees are working as 'excepted' or furloughed as 'non-excepted,'" the guidance states. "Excepted employees will receive pay for hours worked when the Congress passes and the President signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution. Congress will also determine whether non-excepted employees will receive pay for the furlough period."

OPM said it will update information on its website by Friday.

In the meantime, OMB told agencies to prepare for a shutdown as negotiations aren't progressing as quickly as necessary.

Negotiations Underway

President Obama and leaders in Congress met Tuesday to try to hammer out a budget deal.

"It was a good meeting because the President sat down, the Vice President sat down with Speaker [John] Boehner, Leader [Harry] Reid, the chairmen of the appropriations committees, and they spoke directly and at length about what issues are on the table, what needs to be resolved," said White House press secretary Jay Carney during his briefing with reporters. "And I think the Speaker has said that he's willing to work towards finding a deal, and the President obviously made clear that he thinks it's essential that we find a deal. And he wants nonstop work on this - today, tomorrow, the next day - until it gets done. And as he said from here, that if progress isn't being made on the Hill, then he wants to invite that same group of lawmakers back to the White House tomorrow, and again the next day, until we get this done -- because it is simply irresponsible and unacceptable not to finish this business when we are this close to a deal."

Vice President Joe Biden, Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew, Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling and other senior advisors are expected to meet on Wednesday to continue to work on a spending bill.

House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) introduced a one-week continuing resolution Monday night that would cut $12 billion from discretionary spending.

Carney said Obama doesn't support another stopgap funding bill, but would consider one "if we get to a point where an agreement is in hand, but the system won't allow for it to be processed and voted on in time, then he would entertain a clean CR of several days to allow that process to take place."

Carney said Obama laid out specifics of what would happen if a shut down occurs, including the inability of small businesses to get loans and the closure of national parks.

"As the week progresses, the Office of Management and Budget will make more clear to the agencies and share more details about what steps need to be taken in terms of which portions of the government would continue to operate and which would shut down," he said. "But again, I will cite the Speaker of the House who said recently that a budget shutdown would cost more than it would save. So any notion that shutting down the government for some period of time is actually a good thing because it saves money is incorrect, as the Speaker himself said. And independent economists are out there making clear what the impact on the economy would be on the uncertainty it would create for businesses, and that would obviously be harmful at a time when we are beginning to see some real progress in terms of economic growth, sustained growth, and sustained job creation. So we clearly do not want a shutdown. We take leaders of the Congress, the Speaker of the House and the Senate Minority Leader at their word that they do not want a shutdown, which is why we believe that there is still reason to hope that if everyone sits down at the table and is reasonable, that we can find an agreement."

Carney didn't know how many federal employees would be affected by the furlough nor did he say if Defense Department civilian employees would have to come to work on Monday and not get paid.

Congress is also preparing for the shutdown.

The House Committee on Administration issued a 13-page document providing guidance to congressional offices on operations during a shutdown.

RELATED STORIES

Federal furlough FAQ

Budget Resource Page

Shutdown Coverage

(Copyright 2011 by FederalNewsRadio.com. All Rights Reserved.)