Just the Facts

Five Facts on the Status of the Government Shutdown

By Emma Petasis
January 16, 2019 | Blog

The government shutdown is now in its fourth week. Here are five facts on the current status of the longest government shutdown in the history of the United States.

Tens of thousands of federal workers were summoned back to work without pay on Tuesday.

Nearly 50,000 federal employees are being brought back without pay in an effort by the White House to keep the government operating despite the partial shutdown that seemingly has no end in sight. Workers were called back to perform key duties such as inspecting the nation’s food and drug supply. The Federal Aviation Administration announced it was bringing back thousands of furloughed inspectors and other employees as a response to air traffic controller concerns over the safety of U.S. air travel. The National Transportation Board has been prevented from investigating a dozen transportation accidents since the shutdown. The Internal Revenue Service also plans to bring back up to 80,000 employees because of the tax-filing season.

Despite having gone weeks without pay, furloughed federal employees are not allowed to use strikes to protest.

According to the Taft-Hartley Act passed in 1947 it’s illegal for federal employees to strike. The law was initially passed to deter federal employees from crippling key government industries and functions by striking to attain better wages. However, according to The Atlantic, the act likely did not anticipate a predicament where the government would have to require its employees to work without pay. If a furloughed federal employee does not show they can be fired, which would jeopardize a long-time federal employee’s pension, local unions report.

The United States Coast Guard became the first military branch to work without pay during the shutdown.

A total 42,000 active-duty Coast Guard Members missed their paychecks this week. This is because while the Coast Guard is a military branch it is an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, while the other branches fall under the Department of Defense and therefore unaffected by the shutdown. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz reported to NBC News, “To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time in our Nation’s history that service members in a U.S. Armed Force have not been paid during a lapse in government appropriations.” During the first week of January the Pay Our Coast Guard Act was introduced to the Senate to require paying active, retired, and civilian Coast Guard Personnel despite the shutdown.

According to the New York Times, a typical federal worker has missed $5,000 in pay from the shutdown so far.

The effects of furloughed work have cost the average federal employee thousands of dollars in delayed paychecks. According to The New York Times report, those working in the Department of Agriculture, for example, are owed $4,446 per person, totaling more than $300 million owed to 68,144 workers. Those who work for the Treasury Department are owed $4,950, and those who work for the Department of Homeland Security are owed $5,895 per employee. NASA engineers each are owed around $8,000. Attorneys at the Securities and Exchange Commission are currently owed $12,500 per worker. These missing paychecks are affecting mortgage payments, home purchases, student loans, and more. According to The Washington Post, nearly 14% of federal employees affected by the shutdown make less than $50,000 a year. For these employees, missing a paycheck can mean trouble buying groceries.

Amidst the prolonged shutdown, the president met with the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus on Wednesday.

The invited Democrats included Reps. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), Tom Suozzi (NY-03), Vincente Gonzalez (TX-15), Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), Dean Phillips (MN-03), Max Rose (NY-11), and Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), who joined some Republican members of the Caucus. After their meeting, the Problem Solvers Caucus released the following: “There is strong agreement across the aisle and around the country: We must reopen the government. Our security, safety, and economy have been compromised, and millions of families are suffering”. The group continued, “There is also strong agreement that if we reopen the government, the possibility exists to work together and find common ground to tackle some of our country’s toughest problems and fix them. But that conversation can only begin in earnest once the government is reopened.”

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