The government shutdown means no paid vacation for federal workers

Federal workers got a holiday surprise from Donald Trump.
Federal workers got a holiday surprise from Donald Trump.
Image: Reuters/Jim Young
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The US government shutdown is putting a damper on federal workers’ holidays.

On Friday (Dec. 21.) Republican senate leaders could not pass a spending bill that also paid for a border wall proposed by president Donald Trump, who refused to approve new government spending without it.

As a result, several federal agencies shut down at midnight. Employees gearing up for some holiday time off will now do so without pay, according to rules from the Offices of Management and Budget and Personnel Management.

It’s unclear when the affected agencies will get funding again—they include the Departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, State, Interior, Agriculture, Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security, and Justice. (The rest of the government is covered by spending bills that have already been approved.)

The unfunded departments employ some 850,000 people. About 40% are subject to being furloughed, trade publication Government Executive reports, based on the agencies’ shutdown plans. The rest will be asked to work without pay, though those who already have scheduled time off will be temporarily furloughed during those days.

Donald Trump has said he won’t sign anything that does not include funding for the border wall he wants to build between the US and Mexico—or as he’s called it more recently, a “steel slat barrier.” “We’re going to have a shutdown,” he said in a video message Friday night after he failed to reach a deal with lawmakers. “There’s nothing we can do about that because we need the Democrats to give us their votes.”

But he doesn’t have enough support in the Senate for the bill he wants. As long as the showdown lasts, affected federal workers won’t get their checks.

The shutdown’s timing is particularly tricky, because many federal workers take days off around the Christmas holiday. Some have already left on their vacation. Even the simple task of notifying employees that they’ve been furloughed could turn into a headache.

“Many employees will be away from the office on an extended basis, complicating efforts to provide furlough notices,” the management offices wrote in their memo. “Agencies should do their best to provide notices as soon as possible given individual circumstances.”