Mark your calendars – Friday, Jan. 11, 2019 is a major milestone in the ongoing partial shutdown of the federal government.
For many federal employees, it’s the date that this shutdown will become increasingly painful for them and their loved ones. Bloomberg reported that Friday is the first time that these workers won’t get paychecks regardless of their recent labors.
The number of Americans who’ll feel a pinch in their finances as this week ends isn’t small. There are approximately 800,000 federal workers who are furloughed or working without pay as this shutdown drags on. A furlough is a temporary leave of absence from work without pay due to special circumstances.
Regardless of their work status, for many of the affected, this weekend is the start of hard times. Some will become increasingly worried about paying their bills and meeting their basic needs the longer the shutdown lasts.
The current chances of resolving the shutdown are a major reason for this situation. Living paycheck to paycheck or experiencing unexpected financial losses is challenging enough with certainty; without it, hardships become increasingly difficult. With no end in sight, the current shutdown is forcing people to struggle to live their normal lives.
Saturday, Jan. 12, meanwhile, marks another key moment in the ongoing shutdown saga. That’s the date this shutdown becomes the longest one in history. The previous record-holder occurred in 1995, when the government shut down for 21 days when then-President Bill Clinton and a GOP Congress could not agree on a spending plan.
The current shutdown, however, is a clash between Democrats and Republicans that’s animated by border security.
On one side stand President Trump and most of his fellow Republicans, who argue that a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is essential for halting human trafficking, illegal immigration and narcotics.
On the other side are the Democrats, who claim that the wall would be ineffective and a waste of federal funding.
Trump has repeatedly demanded $5 billion for the wall, a number that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have steadfastly refused to provide. The pair have instead offered $1.3 billion in broader border security funding without paying for the barrier.
With neither camp budging, it remains unclear when relief is coming for federal employees that are caught in the middle.
Most federal workers are paid biweekly, and each agency has its own payroll schedule.
The White House shared guidance with agencies on Dec. 22, 2018 designating that date as the end of the biweekly pay period starting Dec. 9, 2018. Because the current shutdown started then, Jan. 11 marks the first time many federal employees will miss paychecks.
“Lapse-affected employees may not receive any pay for work (i.e., orderly shutdown activities or other excepted work) performed during the lapse until after the lapse has ended,” the document states, referencing the failure to appropriate federal funding, therefore triggering a shutdown.
The guidance then lists Dec. 23, 2018 to Jan. 5, 2019 as the next biweekly pay period before explaining how federal employees can get their pay following the shutdown’s end.
“No pay may be provided for excepted work during the December 23-January 5 pay period until the lapse in appropriations has ended,” the guidance says. “The treatment of the pay of employees during furlough periods will be determined by Congress in legislation enacted in connection with the restoration of appropriations.”
Trump said on Jan. 4 that he’s willing to keep the government shut down for “months or even years” to secure funding for the border wall he’s seeking.
The president then tweeted on Jan. 7 that he would “Address the Nation on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border” in a speech on Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 9 p.m. EST.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, meanwhile, tweeted on Jan. 7 that Trump would travel to America’s southern border on Thursday, Jan. 10.”
“[Trump] will meet with those on the frontlines of the national security and humanitarian crisis,” she wrote. “More details will be announced soon.”
With no finish line for the shutdown on the horizon, the pressure on lawmakers to create one will intensify once their constituents start missing paychecks this weekend.
You can find all of GovLoop’s shutdown coverage here.