Federal Employees Describe Personal Shutdown Hardships and Harm to Taxpayers

Press Release December 24, 2018

Washington D.C. – Federal employees around the country are cutting back on personal spending and interrupting holiday plans with family because of the government shutdown, according to a new survey of National Treasury Employees Union members.

“Just in case anyone still thinks a partial shutdown over a holiday weekend is harmless, think again,” NTEU National President Tony Reardon said. “Your friends and neighbors around the country who work for the federal government are already showing signs of financial stress.”

Nearly 80 percent of NTEU members say they are “very concerned” about paying their housing and other basic living expenses this month, and more than 85 percent are tightening their belts in anticipation of delayed or lost paychecks.

NTEU sent the online survey to members after the shutdown began early Saturday morning and as of Monday morning, nearly 1,600 had responded.

Federal employees at the agencies affected by the lapse in appropriations do not get paid during a shutdown, regardless of whether they are furloughed or required to stay on the job. Those who continue to work will be paid once the government reopens; those sent home won’t be paid at all unless Congress approves it.

“The anxiety level among federal employees is extremely high and on top of that, there is real anger that they are paying the personal price for someone else’s dysfunction,” Reardon said.

In addition to reopening government, NTEU is strongly advocating for guaranteed back pay for furloughed employees and for fast-tracked pay for all employees. Sen. Ben Cardin’s (D-MD) bill, S. 2274, has passed the Senate, and NTEU urged action on similar bipartisan legislation in the House, H.R. 7368, sponsored by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA).

“I want to thank Rep. Steny Hoyer for his leadership on this issue,” Reardon said.

Here are some of the things federal employees told NTEU about the personal impact of the shutdown:

“All of my family is on vacation Christmas week. I had scheduled use-or-lose annual leave, which it appears I will be forced to forfeit and therefore will not able to spend that time with my children and grandchildren because I will be required to be at work or be AWOL.”

“I may have to return gifts in order to pay bills and expenses and it is putting a strain on my household.”

“We continue to serve our country despite all the political discord. It is unjust to expect CBP officers to continue to work and risk our lives every day while politicians juggle with our financial future.”

“We cannot survive without paychecks.”

NTEU-represented agencies affected by the lapse in appropriations include: IRS, Customs and Border Protection, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Communications Commission, Food and Drug Administration, Federal Election Commission, National Park Service, Patent and Trademark Office, Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The survey also asked employees to describe the services to taxpayers that are suspended in a shutdown.

“Park lands are vulnerable to illegal activities and vandalism.”

“Investor complaints not being dealt with. Securities fraud not being pursued.”

“The IRS will not be able to assess or collect taxes needed to actually fund the government.”

“Taxpayers who call me with questions will have calls that go unanswered.”

“Technicians, clerical staff are furloughed. They performed tasks necessary to complete the CBP mission. Now officers are having to fill in which takes more manpower off of the front lines that perform law enforcement duties.”

“This shutdown severely limits me from completing work required to protect citizens from hazardous waste concerns at several facilities.”

NTEU represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments.