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How to Start Your Government Shutdown Traditions

It’s one of Washington, D.C.’s strangest recurring episodes – every time federal funding might run out, a government shutdown becomes possible.

Unfortunately, the basic shutdown plot sounds familiar – our lawmakers argue over federal spending, increasing the chance they’ll miss a deadline for funding our highest government agencies. Should they fail, part of our national government shuts down until the money is appropriated.

Any shutdown has serious consequences for federal employees regardless of the politics involved. At best, government workers feel anxious and frustrated until a shutdown debate that gets resolved at the last minute. At worst, many public servants are left without pay until their agencies reopen.

This year’s no exception, with congressional Democrats clashing with President Trump and his fellow Republicans. Driving the issue is whether lawmakers will fund Trump’s long-promised wall dividing the U.S.-Mexico border.

2018 Shutdown: Will They or Won’t They?

Despite the matter’s urgency, time is running out for Congress to agree on potential funding that Trump will approve. All parties have until midnight this Friday for avoiding a partial government shutdown, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

The White House signaled on Tuesday, however, that Trump is open to compromising on the $5 billion for the barrier that he had previously demanded from lawmakers.

“At the end of the day we don’t want to shut down the government, we want to shut down the border,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told Fox News.

Sanders added that Trump’s administration is willing to negotiate on the issue as there’s a “number of different funding sources we could use” for reaching $5 billion in wall funding.

Before Sanders’ remarks, The Hill reported Tuesday that agencies were briefing federal employees on procedures for closing parts of the government. Topics discussed included potential pay delays, identifying essential personnel and furloughing some government workers. Federal furloughs are temporary leaves of absence due to the government’s special needs.

However, a 2018 shutdown would differ from past editions. Trump has already approved legislation authorizing appropriations for 75 percent of the federal government for fiscal year 2019. Should a shutdown materialize, it would impact roughly a quarter of federal agencies.

A shutdown this year would affect more than 12 agencies, including the Homeland Security Department (DHS) and the Agriculture Department (USDA). This would leave many affected employees without their paychecks over Christmas weekend.

Should this happen, take the time to decide what your best practices are for surviving future shutdowns. The habits you embrace will help you benefit from similar obstacles later in your public service.

Handling This and Future Shutdowns

Potential shutdowns are frequent enough that federal employees might want traditions for handling them. How should you prepare if you’re a federal worker whose agency may close? We recommend adopting traditions that will help you weather both current and future freezes:

Reevaluate your career – Shutdowns offer a rare opportunity for examining your public service. Is your work fulfilling and supporting your needs? If not, valuable time now exists for brainstorming changes. Use it for creating new goals, rethinking approaches and, if necessary, hunting for fresh opportunities.

Review your finances – Shutdowns often disrupt federal paychecks, so they’re a critical moment for your finances. Take any breaks for judging your benefits, savings and retirement progress. You can also alter your investment strategies, end recurring payments that aren’t necessary and reallocate your resources for things you enjoy.

Reexamine your healthcare – Shutdowns can help you prepare for potential healthcare changes. Decide if your current plan is satisfying and whether it’s necessary researching alternatives. This will help you prepare for future enrollment sessions, unexpected events and additions to your family.

Better yourself – Self-improvement can define your shutdowns. Enroll in professional development training and learn new skills. Read informative books and exercise more. Volunteer and improve your community. There are numerous free or inexpensive opportunities like these during shutdowns.

Reconnect with loved ones – Shutdowns leave more time available for your family, friends and co-workers. Bond with your fellow employees over your current troubles or use your unexpected free time for reconnecting with people you haven’t seen recently. Socializing keeps you engaged with the world outside government.

Need More Help?

GovLoop has previously covered the impact shutdowns have on efficiency and morale in the federal workforce. If you’re a federal employee who’s feeling down because of this year’s drama, remember that you’re not alone. With millions of people working in the federal government, you’re in good company if this year’s shutdown controversy increases your holiday stress.

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Avatar photo Nicole Blake Johnson

Agreed. Thanks, Mark. These are the unfortunate exercises that feds regularly endure, but the tips you provide at least give employees some positive things to focus on during these uncertain times.