The Federal Coach: The Federal Worker’s Guide to Government Shutdown

With the possibility of a government shutdown a week away, I continue to receive questions from federal employees about how it may affect them. As a result, I consulted my colleague and federal workforce expert, John Palguta, to come up with the answers to the questions that I hear most frequently.

What is a furlough and who is affected?

A furlough places an employee in a temporary non-duty and non-pay status. In the current situation, without funds appropriated by Congress, some federal agencies will be required to shut down and furlough their employees.

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Mark Lewack

When people think of emergency preparedness, people think of preparing for natural disasters, acts of terrorism, etc.

What can you do to cope with the loss of income during a Federal Shutdown, even if you are a non-excepted employee or contractor? Here is some advice I found on the Internet.

First, I work for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management as an Emergency Manager. While I am not involved with pay, leave or human resource issues, I recommend OPM’s Furlough 2011 web page for answers to common questions. Please visit for further information.

Second, I found some advice on I modified the advice given to come up with the following:

1. It is important to have emergency funds (preferably for 3-6 months worth) on hand for any crisis.
2. It would be prudent to cease unnecessary spending and prepare for no payday. For instance:

* Sustenance (food, utilities, etc.) is important, but entertainment or travel expenses are not.
* Minimize driving for routine errands/ventures, like shopping, visiting non-local relatives, etc.
* Combine routine trips (to the store, Doctor’s appointments, cleaners, school,
day care center, etc). Walking or biking to these venues is even better.

3. If you revisit your budget or spending plan and reallocate your outlays, you will be ahead of others in preparation for the next pay period or month.

4. Job searching is an option to consider; however it is not an immediate solution to your income/savings woes. Remember, you should avoid employment or receipt of funds which may involve conflict of interest with your Federal job.

5. If you have debt in the form of credit cards, loans, short-term financial solutions, it is important to continue to make payments, if possible. You can contact your creditors and try to negotiate payment solutions or you can obtain the services of your local Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCCS) organization. For the location of the nearest CCCS organization, please visit: or call: 1-800-388-2227. There may be a small fee for their services, but it would be worth the savings in potential late fees, penalties, credit score ranking, etc.

Hope this is helpful? Regards, Mark