Shutdown: 800,000 federal workers in the dark

Shutdown: 800,000 federal workers in the darkStalemate between President Obama and Speaker Boehner has made a shutdown possible. By Charles Riley, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- There are two kinds of federal workers right now: the essential and the non-essential. Most don't know which group they're in.

And none of them will be getting a paycheck if the government goes dark.

The budget stalemate between Congress and President Obama has raised the specter of a shutdown at the end of Friday.

If they don't reach a deal, the government will shift to performing only "essential operations."

It's likely that more than 1 million essential employees will be asked to come to work -- and not be paid.

But workers deemed non-essential won't be allowed to come to work or work from home. They won't even be allowed to turn on their BlackBerries. The official estimate from the White House is that 800,000 workers would be asked to stay home.

"Employees are waiting and hoping that a shutdown will be averted," National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley said. "But they are anxious because of the uncertainty. They want to know if they will be working."

Each agency develops its own shutdown plan, and then coordinates with the White House to make sure air traffic controllers stay on the job, borders are patrolled and Capitol Hill police come to work.

The agencies have started notifying employees that a shutdown might be on the way and have provided some basic information to workers about what to expect.

But the agencies and White House have been mum about who is essential, and who is not. Employees haven't been told which list they are on.

William Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, sent President Obama a letter on Wednesday asking for the immediate release of the furlough lists, apparently to no avail.

"Most everyone believes their work is essential," Kelley said. "And they are worried about not being there on Monday morning to do that work."

Workers might find out on Friday. A memo sent to Health and Human Services employees, obtained by CNN, indicates that is the case.

"Should it become necessary to implement our contingency plans, you will receive formal notice from your supervisor no later than Friday April 8th regarding the designation of your position and furlough status," the memo reads.

And an official familiar with the plans said earlier notification, possibly on Thursday, might be in the cards.

"Last week would have been even better," Kelley said.

There is also the issue of pay. Without a spending deal, the government can't pay any employees.

Employees who work through a shutdown get back pay as soon as lawmakers reach a budget deal. The same is not true for non-essential employees who are furloughed. For them, Congress has to take an extra step to authorize back pay.

That's something lawmakers have done in the past, but there is no guarantee they will this time. After all, the last shutdown was 15 years ago.

"The economy is very different now," Kelley said. "And the Congress is very different too."  To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,678.70 0.00 0.00%
Nasdaq 4,771.76 0.00 0.00%
S&P 500 2,057.09 0.00 0.00%
Treasuries 1.83 0.01 0.61%
Data as of 11:47pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Apple Inc 113.10 0.12 0.11%
Bank of America Corp... 15.85 0.12 0.76%
General Electric Co 24.59 0.11 0.45%
Mattel Inc 26.64 -1.40 -4.99%
Intel Corp 35.80 -0.64 -1.76%
Data as of 4:01pm ET

Sections

The league announced on Monday that fans will be able to watch official NFL highlights on YouTube. More

Solid economic growth over the next few years should help keep the federal deficit at a very modest level until 2018. But after that, the nation's deficit will start growing again, the Congressional Budget Office said in its latest 10-year outlook. More

On demand delivery startup WunWun is expecting its order volume to double by the time they close up shop on Monday. All thanks to a blizzard. More

Identity thieves are stealing people's Social Security numbers and other key pieces of personal information in order to file a fraudulent tax return and claim a refund, the IRS warned Monday. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2015 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2015. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2015 and/or its affiliates.