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The Real Cost of the Government Shutdown
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Minor Deity
Picture of Cindysphinx
posted
I'm reporting to you from the front lines of the government shutdown. Here's the collateral damage we're seeing:

1. I am on furlough, except that I am considered essential and therefore must work. This is because one of the judges in one of my cases does not want the carefully crafted year-long schedule to be delayed and so denied the government's motion for a continuance. This means I can work on any imminent deadlines but must ignore planning for future deadlines or activities.

2. Our support staff is furloughed. Normally, a legal assistant downloads document productions that we receive onto our system. She is not there to do this, and I do not know how. So I need to comment on and take a position on proposals I have not seen.

3. We all have travel charge cards to use for government travel. If your card becomes delinquent, you have to pay it out of personal funds. My card has a balance because the government did not pay it before the shutdown. I must pay it or incur late fees and late charges -- even if I am not being paid.

4. Because I am essential, I have to work. Some of my days have been 11-12 hours long. Each day, I must report my hours to my supervisor. Presumably, if the government decides not to pay backpay to furloughed workers, I will still receive pay for the hours I worked. This means that I (a salaried employee who never receives overtime when I work more than 40 hours a week) would essentially be treated like an hourly worker during the shutdown and then converted back to salaried status when it is time to start putting in 60 hours a week.

5. My expert consultants are submitting bills for the work they continue to do. I am not allowed to authorize payment of these bills (that task is not considered essential), and there is no support staff to pay these consultants anyway.

6. I can live off of my savings and Mr. Sphinx's salary for a long time. My colleagues are not so lucky, as many are the primary or sole breadwinners in their families and a government salary makes it hard to save.

7. The government owes me money for trips I took before the shutdown. That's a few hundred dollars. Nevertheless, my bosses were considering asking that I fly across the country to make a court appearance, thereby incurring more expenses for which there would be a substantial delay in my getting reimbursed. And of course the cost of hotel and flight would go onto my government credit card, thereby exacerbating the issue I am having with my card being overdue.

8. Well, I guess I could always moonlight. Except no. The ethical rules are still in place, and there are many things I could not do (like restrictions on working for entities that have business with the Department of Justice, and that is a lot of entities).

9. I could always quit. But once I quit, my position disappears because my section does not have authority to replace anyone who leaves. So I could not come back, and the office would take a hit by being down another attorney. And if I quit I would receive no unemployment insurance.

Whatever hardships that have fallen on me are nothing compared to what our contract employees are going through. They do not receive back pay if they don't work, so they are straight out of luck.

For those who think this is fun and games, they need to think again.
 
Posts: 18295 | Location: A cluttered house in Metro D.C. | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Has Achieved Nirvana
Picture of Steve Miller
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The whole thing sounds awful but this part is particularly bad:

quote:
3. We all have travel charge cards to use for government travel. If your card becomes delinquent, you have to pay it out of personal funds. My card has a balance because the government did not pay it before the shutdown. I must pay it or incur late fees and late charges -- even if I am not being paid.


So if the gov't doesn't pay the credit card bill then you are responsible for the penalties? Who takes the hit on their credit report?

What an odd system.


--------------------------------
Life is short. Play with your dog.

 
Posts: 27032 | Location: Yorba Linda, CA | Registered: 23 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
(self-titled) semi-posting lurker
Minor Deity
Picture of ShiroKuro
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Cindy, I was wondering how you were doing and what the effect was on you. I had no idea it was this bad though!

I'm so sorry. This is really terrible. I will be calling my senators today (whether or not it will help though...)


--------------------------------
My piano recordings at Box.Net: https://app.box.com/s/j4rgyhn72uvluemg1m6u

 
Posts: 11890 | Location: not in Japan any more | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Pinta & the Santa Maria
Has Achieved Nirvana
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Here in my neck of the woods, we have graduate students who are being paid via federal grants. They are considered nonessential workers, and must stop. They are not getting paid, and it's illegal for the principal investigator to shuffle money around to pay them from some other money earmarked for, say, equipment. It's also illegal for them to work without pay per Oregon law, so they must simply stop. This means the time needed to get their degree is extending. If it means they have to start a new semester in order to simply finish their degree, this adds additional cost.

Students working for federal agencies as part of the federal work study program aren't being paid, either.

I don't need to mention how most students are essentially living paycheck to paycheck (even with loans), so this immediately puts them in a situation where they can't pay rent, pay their bills, and literally buy food. We have a student food bank whose shelves have been decimated.

Most of our regional federal agencies (USGS, NOAA, USFS, etc.) are 100% shut down. We have friends whose house purchase was jettisoned because the IRS can't verify previous tax filings, and the FHA isn't processing loans.

People who say that this is only affecting a few "highly paid government workers in Washington, DC" need to get a freaking clue.
 
Posts: 31988 | Location: West: North and South! | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Has Achieved Nirvana
Picture of jon-nyc
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Cindy - your post reminds me of a friend’s BIL’s situation. He’s FBI counterterrorism. He had vacation planned over Christmas but they canceled it - for reasons my friend didn’t ask too much about, they are required to work during government shutdowns, I suspect they fear that parts of the government are a soft target in these times.

But he’s still not getting paid. So the message is ‘cancel Christmas vacation and come to work, but there will be no pay’ at least for now.

He and his wife (teacher) have generous pensions to look forward to and correspondingly haven’t saved a lot. Also a kid in college, he’s worried about his bills if this goes on too long.
 
Posts: 30707 | Location: On the Hudson | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Gadfly
Picture of Lisa
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Nowhere near the seriousness-scale of losing your house sale or working without pay, but LL#1 has applied for a full time summer internship with the USDA this summer. She had interviewed and was basically told she is their top candidate but that they were waiting to see if they had funding for one position or two before making formal offers. Then the government shut down and now the guy she interviewed with is not even allowed to contact her. She heard through the guidance counselor at school that she wouldn't hear anything from them until the government reopens. Not a big deal now, but if it drags on, it's going to be very hard for her to make plans or line up other summer work since she'd end up ditching whatever she lines up if this comes through because it's a sweet gig.

And something with a longer term (maybe lifelong) impact -- LL#1's boyfriend is applying to one of the service academies for entrance in the fall. The department of whoever-does-the-medical-clearances-for-the-service-academies is shutdown and he has not yet been medically cleared so he has no idea what the status is of his application. Needless to say this is making the already stressful college applications process even more painful!

Oh and my sister is not allowed to text me because her cell phone is issued through work and therefore she's technically not allowed to use it. Do you know how hard it is to actually have to call someone (on her home phone) instead of text these days??? Smiler
 
Posts: 3855 | Location: Suburban Philly, PA | Registered: 30 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Has Achieved Nirvana
Picture of jon-nyc
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quote:
Originally posted by Lisa:
Do you know how hard it is to actually have to call someone (on her home phone) instead of text these days??? Smiler


All the other points in this thread are bad, but *this* is unacceptable. Big Grin
 
Posts: 30707 | Location: On the Hudson | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Does This Avatar Make My Butt Look Big?

Minor Deity
Picture of Cindysphinx
posted Hide Post
quote:
Originally posted by Steve Miller:
The whole thing sounds awful but this part is particularly bad:

quote:
3. We all have travel charge cards to use for government travel. If your card becomes delinquent, you have to pay it out of personal funds. My card has a balance because the government did not pay it before the shutdown. I must pay it or incur late fees and late charges -- even if I am not being paid.


So if the gov't doesn't pay the credit card bill then you are responsible for the penalties? Who takes the hit on their credit report?

What an odd system.


Normally, the government pays the credit card bill timely. When it doesn't, it is because the worker fails to submit her reimbursement paperwork. Seems fair.

I think the hit would go on my credit report, as I am ultimately responsible for paying off that card. They certainly have my SSN.
 
Posts: 18295 | Location: A cluttered house in Metro D.C. | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Minor Deity
Picture of Cindysphinx
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I understand a lot of TSA workers are calling in sick. Airport security lines are getting long.

Something must be going around . . .
 
Posts: 18295 | Location: A cluttered house in Metro D.C. | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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My entire career I was responsible for paying my corporate card bill. Seeking reimbursement was a totally separate process.
 
Posts: 30707 | Location: On the Hudson | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
(self-titled) semi-posting lurker
Minor Deity
Picture of ShiroKuro
posted Hide Post
Nina, the impacts on those grad students!! VeryAngry

I've been keeping my eye on the TSA stuff too....

And while I realize it's nothing compared to some of the concerns mentioned here and that others are facing, I am worried about whether this will affect our house purchase (which I hadn't had on my radar till now). We aren't applying for an FHA loan, but still have to deal with the IRS etc.

Sigh.


--------------------------------
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Posts: 11890 | Location: not in Japan any more | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Does This Avatar Make My Butt Look Big?

Minor Deity
Picture of Cindysphinx
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My friends who have had trouble couldn't close because the government didn't have anyone in HR who could confirm that the husband works for the State Department.
 
Posts: 18295 | Location: A cluttered house in Metro D.C. | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
czarina
Minor Deity
Picture of piqué
posted Hide Post
Mr Pique is also a government employee, but he works for the city and county. So it is not at all difficult for me to imagine what it is like to be in the position of federal workers and their families. Take away his salary and while I'm sure we'd find a way to struggle through, our world could come crashing down if this lasted long enough. Especially if this affects the housing market and we ended up under water on our house.

So, Cindy, Washington insider and creative problem solver that you are, how the hell do we end the shut down?


--------------------------------
fear is the thief of dreams

 
Posts: 19230 | Registered: 18 May 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Does This Avatar Make My Butt Look Big?

Minor Deity
Picture of Cindysphinx
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I think we need to see big protests in front of the White House. And lawsuits to stop the unfunded parts of the government from providing popular services by breaking appropriations laws.

The pain needs to be spread. And the shutdown will end.
 
Posts: 18295 | Location: A cluttered house in Metro D.C. | Registered: 20 April 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Has Achieved Nirvana
Picture of well-tempered gardener
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Sorry you're going through this, Cindy.

quote:
I think we need to see big protests in front of the White House. And lawsuits to stop the unfunded parts of the government from providing popular services by breaking appropriations laws.

The pain needs to be spread. And the shutdown will end.


Word.


--------------------------------
Ever since I first learned about confirmation bias I've been seeing it everywhere.

Bazootiehead-in-training



 
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