Possible Shutdown Leads List of December Threats to Federal Employees

Press Release December 15, 2020

Washington D.C. – A pre-holiday government shutdown, which is possible starting Friday night, would be financially catastrophic for federal employees and their families and especially disruptive as our nation confronts ongoing public health and economic crises. 

Funding for government agencies expires at midnight Dec. 18, giving Congress and the administration a few short days to reach an agreement that allows federal employees to stay on the job and taxpayer services to continue uninterrupted. 

“Just as federal employees are working around the clock to battle the pandemic, strengthen the economic safety net for vulnerable Americans and secure the country, there is yet another chance that their year-end paychecks will not arrive,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “A government shutdown at such a perilous time would be disastrous for federal employees and taxpayers alike, and we strongly urge our elected leaders to do what is necessary to keep government open.” 

Government funding is just one on a long list of pending year-end decisions in Washington that are causing anxiety for federal employees. Federal workers in every state are also worried about the prospects of a pay increase in 2021; having extra payroll taxes withheld from their paychecks starting in January; unfairly losing earned leave because of the pandemic; and the outgoing administration’s efforts to politicize the civil service. 

“December has turned out to be an especially stressful time for federal employees because of so much unfinished business that will affect their family finances now and into the new year,” Reardon said. 

NTEU is calling for Congress to reject the Senate-proposed pay freeze for 2021, and include a fair pay raise for federal employees in the final appropriations legislation. 

Separately from the raise issue, thousands of middle-class federal employees are already facing smaller paychecks in January, when the government is expected to withhold double the amount of payroll taxes because those taxes were deferred – without their consent -- in the last four months of 2020. 

“We are now days away from the first pay period of 2021 and most federal employees have not been given the information they need to prepare for the reduced take home pay,” Reardon said. “Federal employees may struggle to pay the deferred taxes and we are calling on the Office of Personnel Management and agency leaders to provide them more time.” 

The defense policy bill passed by the House and Senate – but under a veto threat from the president – contains a much-needed provision allowing federal employees to carry over additional annual leave into next year.  

“We’ve heard from many of our members who are worried that they will be forced to lose time off that they rightfully earned but couldn’t use because of the pandemic, and we are hopeful that the common-sense solution from Congress is signed into law,” Reardon said. 

Finally, NTEU continues to monitor the administration’s rushed implementation of the pre-election executive order that strips basic workplace protections from thousands of career civil servants. NTEU has already sued the administration for this blatant attempt to eliminate due process for professional, nonpartisan federal workers. 

“It is a waste of federal taxpayer resources to try and turn our premier merit-based civil service into a political spoils system because it will be rightfully reversed by the new administration,” Reardon said. 

NTEU represents about 150,000 employees in 33 federal agencies and offices.