OMB: Shutdown could affect 800,000 feds

Wednesday - 4/6/2011, 2:10pm EDT

By Ruben Gomez
Federal News Radio

A possible government shutdown could affect around 800,000 federal employees, said a senior Obama administration official in a conference call today with reporters.

Congress still has not inked a deal to keep the government running beyond Friday, when a temporary funding bill expires.

The number of federal employees who could face furloughs would likely come close to numbers seen during the 1995 shutdown, the official said.

A shutdown would not close federal agencies and departments critical to safety of life and protection of property, the White House said. This includes the military and federal law enforcement. Departments and agencies with other funding sources, such as user fees and multi-year appropriations, would also continue operating.

Delayed pay for servicemembers
Military servicemembers would continue to work but would not receive pay checks until Congress restores funding, the official said. DoD would furlough civilians who are not considered excepted. For the current pay period, which ends on April 8, military servicemembers would receive pay, the official said.

Federal websites to close
The administration official said most non-essential federal websites would stop operating but did not provide specifics.

Social Security Administration benefits to continue
SSA is still working on its shutdown plan but would continue to pay benefits.

Medicare benefits to continue
This program, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, would continue to pay benefits, at least in the short term. If a shutdown spans months, beneficiaries would be affected. But the administration says that scenario is unlikely.

Congress and federal courts
A shutdown would affect Congress and federal courts, said another senior administration official. But it's not clear how many people would face furloughs. The judicial and legislative systems operate under separate shutdown plans.

Other federal agencies that would close or curtail services include:

  • Internal Revenue Service: The IRS would stop processing tax refunds for returns filed on paper. Returns filed electronically would still generate refunds.
  • Small Business Administration: The SBA would not process applications for business loans.
  • Federal Housing Administration: A shutdown would stop the FHA from making new loan guarantees.
  • Environmental Protection Agency: The EPA would cut back on non-essential activities, including review of environmental impact statements. Those statements are crucial to some building projects, including projects paid for by federal funds.
  • National Parks: National Parks would close.
  • Smithsonian Institution: All Smithsonian museums would close.
  • Cherry Blossom Parade: A shutdown in the next few days would cancel the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, which is scheduled for April 9.

The administration said federal agencies are taking steps to prepare for a shutdown but did not say how.

On Tuesday, the Office of Personnel Management answered some questions about how a shutdown would affect federal employees, including questions about benefits.

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