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The Office of Management and Budget has instructed agencies impacted by the 35-day government shutdown to reopen.
The memo, from acting OMB Director Russell Vought, brings an official end to the partial shutdown, the longest in U.S. history. It came shortly after President Donald Trump signed a three-week continuing resolution into law.
“All employees who were on furlough due to the absence of appropriations may now return to work,” Vought said. “You should reopen offices in a prompt and orderly manner. We appreciate very much your cooperation and efforts during this difficult period. Thank you and your teams for your service and your continued work on behalf of the American people.”
Federal employees should check with their agencies for specific instructions for returning to work. Generally, furloughed employees are expected to return to their duty stations and resume their normal work schedules. Employees who typically start their work week on Monday, for example, would be expected to return Jan. 28.
The end became apparent Friday afternoon, when Trump announced he would approve a short-term funding measure and support negotiations over a broader border security deal. The resolution, which both the House and Senate quickly agreed to with voice votes Friday evening, funds the agencies that had been shut down through Feb. 15.
Trump thanked federal employees for their hard work during the lapse and said they would receive back pay “very quickly or as soon as possible.”
The President already signed a bill into law that guarantees retroactive pay for furloughed and excepted employees once the government shutdown ends.
Both the President and the Office of Management and Budget said federal employees should get paid as quickly as possible. Margaret Weichert, OMB’s deputy director for management, told agencies to prioritize employee back pay in their preparations for an “orderly reopening.”
One of the government’s largest payroll processors — USDA’s National Finance Center — indicated late Friday evening that employees working for the agencies it serves would receive back wages for the two paychecks they missed during the shutdown by Jan. 31.
The Coast Guard estimates it will take three-to-five business days to process pay for its military members, according to a spokesman. USDA’s NFC handles pay for the Coast Guard civilian workforce.
“The Coast Guard will begin coordinating with that organization as soon as possible after enactment of the proposed continuing resolution,” a spokesman said in a statement to Federal News Network.
OMB, meanwhile, issued a “government reopening checklist” Friday. The list isn’t exhaustive or a directive, officials said, but the items should be considered “high priority issues.”
In multiple instances throughout the checklist , the administration advises agencies to prioritize back pay for federal employees.
Agencies should, for example, ensure they have enough staff available to “support payroll processes, benefit questions or other related support processes (retroactive pay disbursements and on leave and benefit deductions from pay disbursements),” OMB wrote.
In addition, it suggested agencies ensure they have staff available to assist with recalling and communicating with employees about their return to work.
Agencies should also consider how the government shutdown may have impacted employee morale and develop a potential support plan. Employee assistance resources should be readily available, OMB added.
For contractors, OMB suggested agencies “queue” invoices for excepted and non-excepted work to accelerate payments, identify high priority contract activities and evaluate requests for equitable adjustments and other special circumstances.
Federal employee unions praised Friday’s deal but issued words of caution. The American Federation of Government Employees is encouraging more excepted employees to join its lawsuit against the administration. AFGE, along with several other federal unions, have said forcing certain employees to work without pay during the government shutdown is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
“While the agreement reached by the White House and Congress will put employees back to work temporarily and allow them to start getting paid, we will not stop fighting until we have full-year funding approved for all our agencies and until all employees are made whole for the income they have lost,” AFGE National President J. David Cox said Friday in a statement.
AFGE, along with the law firm Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman and Fitch, have filed a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Excepted employees can learn how to join here.