If Congress and the White House don’t come to an agreement over the weekend to reopen the government, federal employees were told today whether they should report to work on Monday.
The Office of Management and Budget in its shutdown guidance said if a lapse in appropriations happens on a Friday, employees should conduct an “orderly shutdown.”
OMB Director Mick Mulvaney directed agencies Saturday begin an orderly shutdown in accordance with the contingency plans.
“Unfortunately, we do not have a clear indication that the Congress will act in time for the President to sign a Continuing Resolution before the end of the day tomorrow. Therefore, agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations,” Mulvaney wrote in the memo. “We urge the Congress to act quickly to pass a Continuing Resolution and to restore the operation of critical public services and programs that will be impacted by a lapse in appropriations. Agencies should continue to closely monitor developments, and OMB will provide further guidance as appropriate.”
Mulvaney said at a press briefing later on Saturday that employees fell into three categories.
‘[E]ither you were exempt and you were to come to work either today or Monday, depending on your ordinary work schedule; you were absolutely furloughed, in which case you were not to come to work beginning today and going over to Monday; or there’s actually another group of people that would show up for a few hours on Monday or today, up to four hours, in order to close down shop or prepare for the lapse. So those notices went out today,” he said.
Marc Short, the legislative director at OMB, said Defense Secretary James Mattis told the White House that about 90,000 National Guardsmen and 20,000 Army Reservists had their training cancelled because of the government shutdown. He said additionally they’ve had to incur more costs, including they have to pick up their own pay and travel costs.
Some agencies, such as the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, have told employees to show up for the entire week as they have enough multi-year or no-year appropriations to remain open beyond the partial shutdown.
A senior administration official told reporters Friday night that agencies should have been sending out informal notices to employees starting Thursday and Friday, and then will send more formal notices starting today and through the weekend of who is exempted and non-exempted from being furloughed.
The White House said President Donald Trump continues to meet with congressional leaders to figure out a way to reopen the government.
“The President will not negotiate on immigration reform until Democrats stop playing games and reopen the government,” said Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary.
The Senate began further consideration of a continuing resolution to reopen the government at 12 p.m. on Saturday. The House will resume work Saturday, at 4 p.m.
While agencies should be prepared to implement their contingency plans, they must wait to execute an orderly shutdown until the Director of OMB directs agencies to operate in accordance with the contingency plans that agencies have prepared under OMB Circular A-11, section 124, and apportions the amounts necessary for obligations required to carry out agencies’ contingency plans. Agencies should not begin orderly shutdown prior to such direction and apportionment by OMB.
How long should “orderly shutdown” take?
Ordinarily, furloughed employees should take no more than three or four hours to provide necessary notices and contact information, secure their files, complete time and attendance records, and otherwise make preparations to preserve their work. OMB Circular A-11 requires agencies to provide OMB with written justification for the conduct of orderly shutdown activities in excess of a half-day. While it may be appropriate in limited circumstances for some employees to take longer to assist in shutdown activities (e.g., seeking court continuances or stop-work orders on pending contracts), these may not be necessary in the event that a very short period of a lapse in appropriations is anticipated. Agencies should make every effort to prepare for these needs in advance of a lapse so that orderly shutdown activities are minimized.
In the event of a lapse on a Friday, when would employees whose schedule is a normal Monday-Friday work week and who are funded by annual appropriations be expected to conduct orderly shutdown activities?
They should be directed to return to work on the following Monday morning to conduct such activities.
Does this mean that they can continue to work remotely over the preceding weekend?
No. Following a lapse in appropriations, the Anti-deficiency Act bars non-excepted work by such employees other than to perform orderly shutdown activities.
In the event of a lapse on a Friday, when would employees whose regular schedule includes weekend (i.e., Saturday and/or Sunday) work and who are funded by annual appropriations be expected to conduct orderly shutdown activities?
Non-excepted weekend employees should report for their first scheduled workday for the sole purpose of engaging in orderly shutdown activities. Excepted weekend employees should report for work to perform their excepted activities.
Agencies have supplemented OMB guidance as well.
For example, an employee guide from the Housing and Urban Development Department states employees will have up to four hours to finish this work, and they’ll be compensated for that four-hour period. Employees should first check their emails to find their furlough notices and instructions for closeout activities. Typically, furloughed employees spend the next four hours setting up out-of-office responses, checking voicemail and handing off unfinished work. If you finish closeout activities before the four-hour time and your manager approves, you can typically go home early.
Managers will be responsible for guiding non-excepted employees through the furlough process and ensuring that all workers have signed furlough notices.
If I’m furloughed or “non-excepted,” can I check email, use my phone, etc.?
No. Furloughed or “non-excepted” employees can’t use government-issued technology — laptops, phones or any other equipment — during a lapse in appropriations. Checking government email is also prohibited.
I’m a contractor. What do I do?
Your agency’s contracting official should issue stop-work notices for applicable contracts that need to temporarily cease. Contracting officials should have more detailed instructions.
Not all contract work may end, however. If your contract or grant still has obligated funds that haven’t expired before the shutdown occurred, your work may continue.
The government re-opened. Now what?
All employees should report for work on the next scheduled work day. If you have a telework agreement with your agency and the government reopens on a telework day, you should report for work at the same time and place as you normally would on that day.