Agencies recall employees, shutter more functions as shutdown lingers

As the partial government shutdown stretches into uncharted territory, agencies previously unaffected by the lapse in funding now find themselves either reopening services that have been unavailable since Dec. 22 or shuttering offices that had previously been unaffected by the shutdown.

The shutdown entered its 26th day Wednesday, breaking the previous record for the longest U.S. government shutdown in history.

Between December 1995 and January 1996, agencies had closed for a total of 21 days in total. In November 1995, agencies had closed for five days.

Furloughed or exempt, most federal employees will continue to go without pay until lawmakers and President Donald Trump reach an agreement to reopen closed agencies.

Trump on Wednesday signed a bill guaranteeing back pay to federal employees impacted by the shutdown.

State Department sends employees back to work with pay

The State Department, in a notice Thursday, ordered all of its diplomats to report to work next week, and advised them they would get paid either next Sunday or Monday for their next pay period.

However, employees will not be paid for time worked since the shutdown began in Dec. 22, until lawmakers and the president lift the shutdown.

William Todd, the deputy undersecretary of state for management, signed the memo.

“As a national security agency, it is imperative that the Department of State carries out its mission,” Todd said in the memo “We are best positioned to do so with fully staffed embassies, consulates, and domestic offices.”

USDA temporarily reopens Farm Service Agency

The Agriculture Department plans to have about 2,500 employees temporarily reopen about half of the Farm Service Agency’s offices Jan. 17 through Tuesday, Jan. 22.

Once reopen, agency staff will help farmers and ranchers process existing farm loans, as well as give them their 1099 tax documents in time for the start of this year’s tax filing season.

“Until Congress sends President Trump an appropriations bill in the form that he will sign, we are doing our best to minimize the impact of the partial federal funding lapse on America’s agricultural producers,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement Wednesday. “We are bringing back part of our FSA team to help producers with existing farm loans.  Meanwhile, we continue to examine our legal authorities to ensure we are providing services to our customers to the greatest extent possible during the shutdown.”

FAA recalls majority of aviation safety inspectors

The Federal Aviation Administration will bring back nearly all of its aviation safety inspectors by the end of this week.

An agency spokesman told the Associated Press that FAA will bring 2,200 inspectors back on the job in the coming days. That’s in addition to the 500 inspectors the FAA brought back to work last week. The agency has more than 3,000 inspectors as part of its workforce.

According to the Transportation Department’s contingency plan, which the agecy updated  Monday, more than 30,000 FAA employees will be working by the end of the week.

FDA brings 400 inspectors back to work

The Food and Drug Administration has brought back 400 employees to support inspections of food, medicine and medical devices, according to Scott Gottlieb, the agency’s director.

About 150 employees will specifically resume their work on food inspections, while another 100 staff will continue their work on testing ” high-risk medical device” manufacturing facilities, Gottlieb wrote in a series of tweets on Tuesday. 

IRS brings half its workforce back for tax refunds

The IRS will exempt more than half of its total workforce if the partial government shutdown extends into the upcoming filing season, according to updated guidance the agency released Tuesday.

A vast majority of the agency’s staff have been furloughed since the beginning of the shutdown on Dec. 22, but the IRS plans to call back 46,000 employees, or 57 percent of its workforce, to help issue refunds for the tax season that opens on Jan. 28.

Most would continue to work without pay while the shutdown continues.

Interior Department recalls energy management employees

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will exempt 40 employees “on an as-needed basis” to finalize land deals for oil and gas drilling, BOEM spokeswoman Connie Gillette said in an email Thursday.

The agency’s updated contingency plan called for bringing more employees back to work if the shutdown extended past Jan. 15.

Federal courts soon to run out of funds

The shutdown also threatens to disrupt the normal functions of the judicial branch.

The federal court system — which includes the Supreme Court, 13 courts of appeals and 94 district courts — has stretched the amount of non-appropriated funds it has available for the duration.

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts in a post on its website Tuesday, said the courts can “sustain funded operations” through Jan. 25. It had previously estimated it only had non-appropriated funds until Jan. 18.

“The additional week of funding was mainly attributed to aggressive efforts to reduce expenditures,” the website states. “In recent weeks, courts and federal public defender offices have delayed or deferred non-mission critical expenses, such as new hires, non-case related travel, and certain contracts.”

An administrative office spokeswoman said judges would continue to be paid, as mandated by the Constitution, but some judiciary employees would be furloughed.

“Those performing mission critical work would not be furloughed. but they also would not be paid until there is a new appropriations [bill] signed into law,” the spokeswoman said in an email “Some employees might be furloughed for part of the time and work part of the time, depending on the amount of mission-critical work they need to perform.”

Census Bureau suspends select operations

The Census Bureau will continue decennial operation for the time being. Since the beginning of 2019, the agency has had six-to-eight weeks of funding to keep 2020 count operations running.

However, all of the agency’s work on the American Community Survey, which goes out to 3.5 million Americans each year, has ceased during the lapse, Ron Jarmin, the agency’s deputy secretary, wrote in a tweet on Jan. 9.

As the shutdown continues, the agency will stop publishing monthly economic indicators on everything from trade, construction and retail business.

These agencies recently recalled furloughed federal employees:
Agency Employees recalled Justification
IRS 46,000 Analysts to process and handle tax returns as filing season begins.
FAA 3,600 Aviation inspectors and engineers to perform duties to ensure safety of airplanes and national airspace.
USDA – Farm Service Agency 2,500 Employees to process loans and tax information for farmers.
FDA 400 Food safety inspectors to ensure companies are complying with federal standards for making, processing and packing food.
Interior – Bureau of Ocean Energy Management  40 (on-call) Employees to facilitate the sale of offshore drilling rights.

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