SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. — On Jan. 19 an appropriation bill or continuing resolution was not passed by Congress, resulting in an emergency government shutdown. The lapse in appropriations caused some government employees subject to furlough to enter a non-duty, non-pay status while others continued working in a non-pay status.
Learning from the previous government shut down, it is important to be prepared in the event it happens again.
“When we say emergency shutdown, the word emergency implies there is little time to prepare,” said James Monday, a human resource specialist at Air Mobility Command. “Although there are contingency plans in place, we don’t always know exactly when and how a government shutdown will happen, so each time will be an adjustment.”
During a government shutdown, civilian government employees fall into one of three categories: excepted, non-excepted and exempt.
• Excepted employees will report to work during furlough in an unpaid status
• Non-excepted employees are furloughed similar to a leave-without-pay status.
• Exempt employees are typically funded with multi-year appropriated funds or other non-appropriated funds, so they are not impacted by the furlough and report to work as normal.
“The excepted positions are typically those required to support certain activities such as mission-essential protection or safety duties, medical and dental care, legal activities, and some financial management to name a few,” said Monday. “Since they are considered mission essential, they will receive back pay at the end of the emergency shutdown.”
Each employee’s category code can be obtained by contacting the local Civilian Personnel Office.
While there are many unknowns during an emergency shutdown, according to Monday, civilian personnel and their supervisors can help identify one potential problem area before furlough is a possibility.
“This past shutdown, a small number of employees were not in the correct category, so we had to change a few codes that morning,” said Monday. “Employees and supervisors can work together ahead of time to check the furlough indicator code by contacting CPO. If they identify an error early, civilian supervisors can work with civilian personnel to update the record at a time that may be less stressful.”
Monday also encourages employees and their supervisors to stay informed on where Congress is in the process. Additionally, it is important to check the Office of Personnel Management site for the latest information. OPM is the official source for information. Heading forward, AMC will look to share information from OPM as it becomes available via the AMC Facebook page and official sources.
“Sometimes official notification can take a minute to flow,” said Monday. “So, watching the news live will help prepare you for what’s going to come and when or if you can expect an official notification of a government shutdown.”
Since nothing replaces the official notification process, civilian supervisors need to have updated and accurate recall rosters to help ensure all civilian employees are reached easily and quickly.
Before non-excepted employees are sent home, supervisors will meet with them to discuss the furlough process, issue the furlough letter and implement an orderly shutdown.
“This is not something we can plan exactly,” said Monday. “The letters and processes will evolve, and we have to [adjust] with it. The Air Force is constantly adapting to laws and regulations, so it’s vital for employees to always read the furlough letter when issued to them. The information found in the letter will help clear up many misconceptions.”
The furlough letter informs employees about their appeal process rights and possible unemployment benefits.
“Understanding where you stand and understanding what is happening when an emergency shutdown happens will be your best defense against uncertainty,” said Monday. “Staying informed and reading all documentation given to you will help make a challenging time a little less stressful.”
When shutdowns happen, their effects are felt by the entire force. It is important to be ready and understand expectations and implementation procedures.
For more official information on furlough, visit https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/furlough-guidance.