Government Shutdown Frequently Asked Questions

NARFE continues to update frequently asked questions relating to the government shutdown. The following have been provided by NARFE’s federal benefits experts and sourced from multiple outlets including: The Washington Post, Government Executive, The New York Times, USA Today and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

General Shutdown FAQs

Active Federal Employee FAQs

Federal Annuitants and Retirees FAQs

Benefits FAQs


General Shutdown FAQs

How many federal employees are currently being forced to work without pay or furloughed?

More than 420,000 “excepted” (“essential”) federal workers are being forced to work without pay while another 380,000 federal workers are furloughed and at home with no pay.

Which federal departments are currently open? Which are closed?

The agencies of the departments of Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Veterans Affairs are currently open, as fiscal year 2019 appropriations for these agencies have been passed by Congress and signed into law by the president. The agencies of the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, State, Transportation, and Treasury are currently closed or operating in a limited capacity.

How does a shutdown end?

It's up to Congress and the White House. No doubt there will be plenty of pressure from the public and workforce. There is no law setting a time limit.

Will I still get my mail?

Yes. The U.S. Postal Service functions as an independent business unit.

 

Active Federal Employee FAQs

Has the partial government shutdown affected the federal pay freeze or the proposed federal pay raise?

The proposed federal pay raise of 1.9 percent has not yet been passed by Congress, meaning the President’s pay freeze order has gone into effect. However, the pay raise could still be implemented retroactively through H.R. 21, the six-bill spending package that would provide nearly all shuttered departments and agencies with full-year appropriations in addition to a 1.9 percent average pay raise for federal employees in 2019. Please urge your legislators to support H.R. 21 via message or phone call using NARFE’s Legislative Action Center here.  

Who is "excepted" (essential) and who is not?

That's up to individual agencies. The federal government is required by law to maintain functions that:
•    provide for the national security, including the conduct of foreign relations;
•    provide for benefit payments and the performance of contract obligations under no-year or multi-year contracts; and
•    protect life and property.

Who decides?

Federal managers must review which of their employees would be excepted and required to come to work, and which would be non-excepted and sent home during a shutdown.

Will I be paid?

Excepted employees will receive payment for work incurred once goverment funding is established.

Congress will determine whether furloughed employees receive pay for the furlough period.

How are congressional staff affected?

Congressional staff are unaffected by the partial government shutdown as the legislative branch received full year funding for fiscal year 2019.

Will active-duty military be furloughed?

No. All active-duty military are essential.

What if I'm a government contractor?
   
How a government shutdown affects contractors is a mixed bag. Companies will essentially have to find out as they go.

If I'm furloughed, why can't I take annual leave or other paid time off instead?

You may not take annual leave or other paid time off because that would create a debt obligation not payable under the Antideficiency Act if no appropriation has been made. This includes a requirement to cancel any paid leave that already had been scheduled.

The OPM publication states that employees cannot substitute paid leave for furlough time and that even previously scheduled paid time off must be canceled "because the requirement to furlough supersedes leave and other paid time off rights."

What if I'm deemed “excepted” (“essential”), but get sick?


If you become too sick to work during a shutdown, you would face the same uncertainty over your pay for the time off work as those who are furloughed.

Are employees entitled to unemployment compensation while on furlough?

It is possible, especially if the employees are furloughed consecutive days. State unemployment compensation requirements differ, so affected employees should submit their questions to the appropriate state office where they work.

Will leave I scheduled during the government shutdown be charged?

Any leave previously scheduled during the period of the government shutdown has been cancelled and you will not be charged leave.

What happens to my “use-or-lose” annual leave that I was not able to use due to the shutdown?

This leave must be restored to you and your agency will provide instructions on any action needed.

I am a furloughed employee; will I accrue annual and sick leave during the shutdown?

Under current law, after you have been in a non-pay status for 80 hours, you will stop accruing annual and sick leave. Congress, however, may authorize retroactive accrual of leave.

I am an excepted employee; will I accrue annual and sick leave during the shutdown?

You will continue to accrue leave, but will not be able to use accrued leave until funding is restored to your agency.

 

Federal Annuitants and Retirees FAQs

Will cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for CSRS and FERS retirees be implemented during the shutdown?

Yes, COLAs are unaffected by the partial government shutdown.

If I'm a retired federal worker, will I still get my check?

For millions of federal retirees who may be concerned about their annuity checks, which arrive on the first day of each month, those payments will continue as normal.

Federal retirement payments, such as Social Security benefits, fall under the "mandatory" budget category not funded through annual appropriations, and are not affected by these kinds of funding deadlocks. According to the OPM document, federal retirees "will still receive their scheduled annuity payments on the first business day of the month."

Will seniors continue to get Social Security benefits?

Yes. Social Security is a mandatory spending program, and the people who send those checks would continue to work under a legal doctrine called "necessary implication."

What about other services to retirees, such as issues with missed payments or questions?

OPM's Retirement Services office employees are excluded from the shutdown because that office gets its operating money from the federal retirement trust fund. The Retirement Information Office is open and can be reached at 888-767-6738.

If I retired just prior to or during the shutdown, am I retired?

If you have submitted a retirement application to your agency with a date of retirement that has already passed, then yes, you are retired.

Has my paperwork been processed?

It depends on the agency. If the employees who finalize your retirement package are furloughed, the processing of your retirement may have been delayed until they return to the job.

Will I need to return to work after the shutdown?

Retired federal employees should not have to return to work at all. They are no longer federal employees. They are federal retirees who are waiting on their agency and OPM to finish processing their retirement. When the shutdown ends and everyone else returns to work, if the agency needs anything else from the separated retiree, they will contact them directly.

When will I receive my first annuity payment?

The first annuity payment usually occurs within 2 to 4 weeks after OPM receives a healthy retirement application package from the agency’s payroll office. A healthy retirement application package is one that includes everything OPM needs to properly and accurately adjudicate the individual’s retirement. Annuity payments cannot be issued before OPM can review and approve the retirement application package.

Will my pension be negatively affected because I retired during a furlough?

Your pension should not be negatively affected with regard to the computation, since furloughs usually do not last more than 6 months in any calendar year. Employees who spend less than 6 months in leave without pay (LWOP) or non-pay status still receive credit for the actual service, and the salary rates are still used to compute their high-3 average salary even if they end up not receiving salary retroactively.

 

Benefits FAQs


What's the status of employee benefits?

Coverage under the federal employee health insurance program will continue, with the employees' share accumulating until they return to paid status. Coverage under the life insurance program also continues, without cost to the employee. For the long-term care and vision/dental insurance programs, enrollees must continue to pay the premiums; those paying through payroll deduction will be billed directly if the unpaid period lasts a number of weeks.


Will Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) or Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) be affected?

FEHB and FEGLI won’t be cancelled, but any potential plan changes (if applicable) may be delayed until the changes can be processed by OPM upon their return to work. Once any applicable FEHB changes are made for employees, they will be made retroactive to January 6, 2019.

If my (FEHB) or (FEGLI) changes have not yet been processed but I need medical service, what should I do?

For employees who didn’t make any changes to their plans, they can continue to use their health insurance as normal. But for those who made changes, until the agency can process the changes, those employees may need to pay out of pocket for any expenses they might incur.’

If necessary, we recommend employees who made FEHB changes call their new carriers even though the new plan hasn’t received their enrollment change yet. You can verify whether or not the doctor, hospital or medical service that they are seeking is going to be covered by the new plan so they can easily be reimbursed once the new plan receives their enrollment change from the agency.

If I set up a Healthcare Flexible Spending Account (HCFSA) during open season, can I use it for medical expenses?

If an employee set up a Healthcare Flexible Spending Account (HCFSA) during the open season, we would recommend avoid incurring any unnecessary medical expenses during the shutdown because the expense usually doesn’t qualify for reimbursement if it was incurred while in a non-pay status.

If I set up a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA) during open season, can I use it for eligible dependent care expenses?

If an employee set up a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA) during the recent open season, eligible dependent care expenses incurred while in a non-pay status may be reimbursed up to whatever balance that eventually ends up in the employee’s account, as long as the expense incurred allowed the employee to attend school full time or allowed the employee’s spouse to work. It’s unlikely that the employee was working or looking for work while in a non-pay status, but it’s possible, so the expense would also qualify if that were the case.

Will my thrift savings plan (TSP) be affected by the government shutdown?

Please see this Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) fact sheet for employees who are in a non-pay status for more information.

I am in a non-pay status. Does this have an effect on my Flexible Spending Account (FSAFEDS)?

Your FSAFEDS payroll deductions cease when you do not receive pay and thus your premiums cannot be deducted. You remain enrolled in FSAFEDS but cannot be reimbursed for eligible health care claims until you return to pay status and payroll deductions are made.

Can eligible dependent care expenses be reimbursed through FSAFEDS while in a non-pay status?

Yes, any expenses incurred during the lapse in appropriations may be reimbursed up to whatever balance is in your dependent care account—as long as the expense incurred allows you (or your spouse, if married) to work, look for work, or attend school full-time.

Do new enrollments or changes in enrollment due to a Qualifying Life Event take effect while in a non-pay status?

Generally, no, new enrollments or changes in enrollment due to a Qualifying Life Event do not take effect until the employee is back in pay status. The exception is for a new enrollment or change in enrollment due to the birth or addition of a child, which is effective on the first day of the pay period in which the child is born or becomes an eligible family member regardless of pay status.


If your question was not covered here, please consult the OPM Shutdown Guidance.

National Active and Retired

FEDERAL EMPLOYEES Association

NARFE (National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association) 606 N. Washington St., Alexandria, VA 22314, Phone: (703) 838-7760, Fax: (703) 838-7785.

 

This is the only website that reflects the official opinions and positions of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE). Opinions and/or positions that appear on any other site bearing NARFE's name or seal are not necessarily those of NARFE. Click here for Privacy Statement.   NARFE has been certified by Dun & Bradstreet.

Government Shutdown Frequently Asked Questions

NARFE continues to update frequently asked questions relating to the government shutdown. The following have been provided by NARFE’s federal benefits experts and sourced from multiple outlets including: The Washington Post, Government Executive, The New York Times, USA Today and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

General Shutdown FAQs

Active Federal Employee FAQs

Federal Annuitants and Retirees FAQs

Benefits FAQs


General Shutdown FAQs

How many federal employees are currently being forced to work without pay or furloughed?

More than 420,000 “excepted” (“essential”) federal workers are being forced to work without pay while another 380,000 federal workers are furloughed and at home with no pay.

Which federal departments are currently open? Which are closed?

The agencies of the departments of Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Labor, and Veterans Affairs are currently open, as fiscal year 2019 appropriations for these agencies have been passed by Congress and signed into law by the president. The agencies of the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, State, Transportation, and Treasury are currently closed or operating in a limited capacity.

How does a shutdown end?

It's up to Congress and the White House. No doubt there will be plenty of pressure from the public and workforce. There is no law setting a time limit.

Will I still get my mail?

Yes. The U.S. Postal Service functions as an independent business unit.

 

Active Federal Employee FAQs

Has the partial government shutdown affected the federal pay freeze or the proposed federal pay raise?

The proposed federal pay raise of 1.9 percent has not yet been passed by Congress, meaning the President’s pay freeze order has gone into effect. However, the pay raise could still be implemented retroactively through H.R. 21, the six-bill spending package that would provide nearly all shuttered departments and agencies with full-year appropriations in addition to a 1.9 percent average pay raise for federal employees in 2019. Please urge your legislators to support H.R. 21 via message or phone call using NARFE’s Legislative Action Center here.  

Who is "excepted" (essential) and who is not?

That's up to individual agencies. The federal government is required by law to maintain functions that:
•    provide for the national security, including the conduct of foreign relations;
•    provide for benefit payments and the performance of contract obligations under no-year or multi-year contracts; and
•    protect life and property.

Who decides?

Federal managers must review which of their employees would be excepted and required to come to work, and which would be non-excepted and sent home during a shutdown.

Will I be paid?

Excepted employees will receive payment for work incurred once goverment funding is established.

Congress will determine whether furloughed employees receive pay for the furlough period.

How are congressional staff affected?

Congressional staff are unaffected by the partial government shutdown as the legislative branch received full year funding for fiscal year 2019.

Will active-duty military be furloughed?

No. All active-duty military are essential.

What if I'm a government contractor?
   
How a government shutdown affects contractors is a mixed bag. Companies will essentially have to find out as they go.

If I'm furloughed, why can't I take annual leave or other paid time off instead?

You may not take annual leave or other paid time off because that would create a debt obligation not payable under the Antideficiency Act if no appropriation has been made. This includes a requirement to cancel any paid leave that already had been scheduled.

The OPM publication states that employees cannot substitute paid leave for furlough time and that even previously scheduled paid time off must be canceled "because the requirement to furlough supersedes leave and other paid time off rights."

What if I'm deemed “excepted” (“essential”), but get sick?


If you become too sick to work during a shutdown, you would face the same uncertainty over your pay for the time off work as those who are furloughed.

Are employees entitled to unemployment compensation while on furlough?

It is possible, especially if the employees are furloughed consecutive days. State unemployment compensation requirements differ, so affected employees should submit their questions to the appropriate state office where they work.

Will leave I scheduled during the government shutdown be charged?

Any leave previously scheduled during the period of the government shutdown has been cancelled and you will not be charged leave.

What happens to my “use-or-lose” annual leave that I was not able to use due to the shutdown?

This leave must be restored to you and your agency will provide instructions on any action needed.

I am a furloughed employee; will I accrue annual and sick leave during the shutdown?

Under current law, after you have been in a non-pay status for 80 hours, you will stop accruing annual and sick leave. Congress, however, may authorize retroactive accrual of leave.

I am an excepted employee; will I accrue annual and sick leave during the shutdown?

You will continue to accrue leave, but will not be able to use accrued leave until funding is restored to your agency.

 

Federal Annuitants and Retirees FAQs

Will cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for CSRS and FERS retirees be implemented during the shutdown?

Yes, COLAs are unaffected by the partial government shutdown.

If I'm a retired federal worker, will I still get my check?

For millions of federal retirees who may be concerned about their annuity checks, which arrive on the first day of each month, those payments will continue as normal.

Federal retirement payments, such as Social Security benefits, fall under the "mandatory" budget category not funded through annual appropriations, and are not affected by these kinds of funding deadlocks. According to the OPM document, federal retirees "will still receive their scheduled annuity payments on the first business day of the month."

Will seniors continue to get Social Security benefits?

Yes. Social Security is a mandatory spending program, and the people who send those checks would continue to work under a legal doctrine called "necessary implication."

What about other services to retirees, such as issues with missed payments or questions?

OPM's Retirement Services office employees are excluded from the shutdown because that office gets its operating money from the federal retirement trust fund. The Retirement Information Office is open and can be reached at 888-767-6738.

If I retired just prior to or during the shutdown, am I retired?

If you have submitted a retirement application to your agency with a date of retirement that has already passed, then yes, you are retired.

Has my paperwork been processed?

It depends on the agency. If the employees who finalize your retirement package are furloughed, the processing of your retirement may have been delayed until they return to the job.

Will I need to return to work after the shutdown?

Retired federal employees should not have to return to work at all. They are no longer federal employees. They are federal retirees who are waiting on their agency and OPM to finish processing their retirement. When the shutdown ends and everyone else returns to work, if the agency needs anything else from the separated retiree, they will contact them directly.

When will I receive my first annuity payment?

The first annuity payment usually occurs within 2 to 4 weeks after OPM receives a healthy retirement application package from the agency’s payroll office. A healthy retirement application package is one that includes everything OPM needs to properly and accurately adjudicate the individual’s retirement. Annuity payments cannot be issued before OPM can review and approve the retirement application package.

Will my pension be negatively affected because I retired during a furlough?

Your pension should not be negatively affected with regard to the computation, since furloughs usually do not last more than 6 months in any calendar year. Employees who spend less than 6 months in leave without pay (LWOP) or non-pay status still receive credit for the actual service, and the salary rates are still used to compute their high-3 average salary even if they end up not receiving salary retroactively.

 

Benefits FAQs


What's the status of employee benefits?

Coverage under the federal employee health insurance program will continue, with the employees' share accumulating until they return to paid status. Coverage under the life insurance program also continues, without cost to the employee. For the long-term care and vision/dental insurance programs, enrollees must continue to pay the premiums; those paying through payroll deduction will be billed directly if the unpaid period lasts a number of weeks.


Will Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) or Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) be affected?

FEHB and FEGLI won’t be cancelled, but any potential plan changes (if applicable) may be delayed until the changes can be processed by OPM upon their return to work. Once any applicable FEHB changes are made for employees, they will be made retroactive to January 6, 2019.

If my (FEHB) or (FEGLI) changes have not yet been processed but I need medical service, what should I do?

For employees who didn’t make any changes to their plans, they can continue to use their health insurance as normal. But for those who made changes, until the agency can process the changes, those employees may need to pay out of pocket for any expenses they might incur.’

If necessary, we recommend employees who made FEHB changes call their new carriers even though the new plan hasn’t received their enrollment change yet. You can verify whether or not the doctor, hospital or medical service that they are seeking is going to be covered by the new plan so they can easily be reimbursed once the new plan receives their enrollment change from the agency.

If I set up a Healthcare Flexible Spending Account (HCFSA) during open season, can I use it for medical expenses?

If an employee set up a Healthcare Flexible Spending Account (HCFSA) during the open season, we would recommend avoid incurring any unnecessary medical expenses during the shutdown because the expense usually doesn’t qualify for reimbursement if it was incurred while in a non-pay status.

If I set up a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA) during open season, can I use it for eligible dependent care expenses?

If an employee set up a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA) during the recent open season, eligible dependent care expenses incurred while in a non-pay status may be reimbursed up to whatever balance that eventually ends up in the employee’s account, as long as the expense incurred allowed the employee to attend school full time or allowed the employee’s spouse to work. It’s unlikely that the employee was working or looking for work while in a non-pay status, but it’s possible, so the expense would also qualify if that were the case.

Will my thrift savings plan (TSP) be affected by the government shutdown?

Please see this Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) fact sheet for employees who are in a non-pay status for more information.

I am in a non-pay status. Does this have an effect on my Flexible Spending Account (FSAFEDS)?

Your FSAFEDS payroll deductions cease when you do not receive pay and thus your premiums cannot be deducted. You remain enrolled in FSAFEDS but cannot be reimbursed for eligible health care claims until you return to pay status and payroll deductions are made.

Can eligible dependent care expenses be reimbursed through FSAFEDS while in a non-pay status?

Yes, any expenses incurred during the lapse in appropriations may be reimbursed up to whatever balance is in your dependent care account—as long as the expense incurred allows you (or your spouse, if married) to work, look for work, or attend school full-time.

Do new enrollments or changes in enrollment due to a Qualifying Life Event take effect while in a non-pay status?

Generally, no, new enrollments or changes in enrollment due to a Qualifying Life Event do not take effect until the employee is back in pay status. The exception is for a new enrollment or change in enrollment due to the birth or addition of a child, which is effective on the first day of the pay period in which the child is born or becomes an eligible family member regardless of pay status.


If your question was not covered here, please consult the OPM Shutdown Guidance.

National Active and Retired

FEDERAL EMPLOYEES
Association



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NARFE (National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association) 606 N. Washington St., Alexandria, VA 22314, Phone: (703) 838-7760, Fax: (703) 838-7785.

 

This is the only website that reflects the official opinions and positions of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE). Opinions and/or positions that appear on any other site bearing NARFE's name or seal are not necessarily those of NARFE. Click here for Privacy Statement.   NARFE has been certified by Dun & Bradstreet.