State Department will pay employees for next 15 days amid ‘strict budget constraints’

The State Department has enough non-appropriated funding to bring its domestic and overseas employees back with pay for more than two weeks, and has looked at ways to remain open beyond that period as the partial government shutdown ends its fourth week.

After furloughing about 40 percent of its domestic staff and 23 percent of its overseas workforce, the agency will have “all State Department direct-hire employees and State Department locally employed staff” report back to work next week, according to a memo Thursday from William Todd, the deputy under secretary for management.

For most employees, their first day back will be Tuesday, Jan. 22.

A State Department spokesperson on Friday said the agency will pay employees for hours worked within the next 15 days after it had made funds available “through a review of the Department’s available balances.”

“The State Department is best positioned to carry out our mission when we have our entire team on the field,” the spokesperson said in an email Friday.

But beyond the upcoming pay period, the spokesperson said the State Department is “continuing to review its balances and available legal authorities to see if other flexibilities may be available to cover future pay periods.”

“Although most personnel operations can resume, bureaus and posts are expected to adhere to strict budget constraints with regard to new spending for contracts, travel and other needs,” Todd wrote in the memo.

The State Department urges contractors to notify their contracting officer’s representative for further information on their status.

“The Department will consider options for addressing any resulting funding gaps for activities in FY 2019 once a continuing resolution or new appropriations act is enacted,” the spokesperson said.

However, furloughed and exempt agency employees will not receive back pay for dates between Dec. 22, 2018 and Jan. 19, 2019 until Congress and President Donald Trump reach an agreement to end the lapse in agency funding.

Trump on Wednesday signed a bill into law guaranteeing back pay to all furloughed and exempted employees once the shutdown ends.

The State Department has a total workforce of more than 75,000 employees, according to a September 2018 document from the agency’s Bureau of Human Resources.

The en masse recall of agency employees comes after the IRS notified half of its workforce — about 46,000 employees — would work without pay during the filing season.

Other agencies, including the Agriculture Department’s Farm Service Agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Interior Department have begun bringing employees back to work that were not originally exempt under their shutdown contingency plans.

The State Department spokesperson did not clarify where the agency had made funds available to pay employees for the next 15 days.

The Antideficiency Act prohibits agencies from spending funds that Congress hasn’t appropriated, except in “cases of emergency involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.”

Todd also provided State Department staff on Jan. 15 with an agency-specific form letter to show to creditors.

“Because they have not been paid during the lapse in appropriations, some of our employees may have difficulty meeting their financial obligation on time. This lapse in appropriations is beyond our employees’ control,” Todd wrote in the letter. “Our employee will be returned to pay status as soon as possible.”

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