"'Mama, Are you on vacation?'..... No, son. Definitely Not"
The 2019 Government Shutdown Explained…by an affected L.A. Mom
The Scoop on my work situation
Friends, I’m among the 800,000 federal employees on furlough due to the partial government shutdown (more on that in a bit). When Benny noticed that I’ve been able to drop him off and pick him up at school every day, ON TIME, for two weeks in a row, he asked if I was on vacation.
“No son. Definitely not,” I responded.
Currently, I’m not working and I’m not getting paid. As a matter of fact, I just missed my first paycheck in nearly ten years of working for the federal government.
And while I generally limit my opinions on the topic to face-to-face conversations with close friends and relatives, today I’m opening up a bit more.
I won’t be sharing what I think about the current state of politics— but rather what a shutdown means.
For many years I served as a spokesperson,
often giving interviews on behalf of my agency at local TV stations and media.
Today, I have the privilege of holding a position in the legislative affairs division of my agency. As a public servant of this great country and given my unique job roles, I have always carefully obeyed the Hatch Act.
The Hatch Act
is a law that prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity— including comments, campaigning, lobbying or even wearing partisan buttons or clothing, while on the job.
Because anything anyone says can easily go viral in these days of massive technology use and the tense political climate, I’ve made it a point to err on the side of caution and avoid talking politics even outside of the office.
I’ll be honest, it’s been hard to stay quiet recently. But since it’s a great honor to hold my current position, I choose to stay loyal to the idea that working for a federal government agency means I’m working for all Americans, regardless of anybody’s political inclinations.
With that said,
Here’s my simplified explanation on the government shutdown:
Every year, the government must decide how much money it needs in order to keep running (kind of like creating a yearly financial plan for your family). Our elected officials in Congress come up with a budget which is supposed to allow the government to operate from October 1 through September 30 of the following year (our fiscal year).
Once our lawmakers decide how much money is necessary to fund the many different agencies, federal programs, services, etc., the President reviews it. If the President agrees with the numbers, he signs the budget and things keep moving. Some years the budget may reduce funds for certain agencies, other years it may give an agency more money than was expected.
But last year (2018),
when the end of the fiscal year was approaching, it was clear that lawmakers in D.C. were NOT agreeing on a budget. That’s why, before the fiscal year ended, they simply approved an “extension” of sorts to keep the government running at the same levels through December 7.
When December 7 came around, there was still no agreement on the budget so lawmakers then approved another extension (called a Continuing Resolution) through December 22.
But when the clock struck midnight on December 22, they still had not agreed on a budget, nor did they approve another extension. That was when the government closed. And it remains closed for many agencies.
But why did certain agencies stay open? you may ask
Before this complicated budget fight, Congress had already approved a smaller budget to keep a few agencies running through 2019. Those included agencies that conduct “essential” operations like national security, emergency services, law and order as well as the U.S. Postal Service.
Since that smaller budget was a separate item, it didn’t get lumped into the big budget and that’s why some people never got furloughed hence the partial Government Shutdown.
At this point, there’s no way of knowing when a budget will be approved. There have been several attempts to reopen government but none have worked so far.
When there’s a government shutdown, federal employees are not allowed to work, meaning, no visits to your office or logging in to your government computer or answering your government phone.
People are allowed to file for unemployment benefits. However, if employees eventually return to work and get retroactive pay (which the President just approved), those unemployment benefits will have to be refunded.
Still, for many families, the need is too great to worry about having to later repay unemployment payments. They need a paycheck.
Many employees have been asked to work without pay.
I’m not one of them… at least not yet. The unfortunate aspect of having to report to work without getting paid is that you cannot collect unemployment benefits even if you’re not getting paid by your agency.
Friends, there’s no question the government will reopen… I mean, It HAS to.
But just how long it will take is anyone’s guess.
In the meantime, I’m trying to maximize my time at home, organizing sock drawers, rearranging my pantry and working on keeping the house clean. I’m also working hard on my magazine and helping my husband Paul with his CPR business.
I hope anyone affected by this government shutdown is keeping their spirits high. Keep in mind that many successful business owners and entrepreneurs have become such after surviving times of financial instability. Let’s try to make the best of this experience.
God Bless America.
Thanks for reading,