Are You Ready for the Next Government Shutdown?
I was hoping to ignore the rumors and rumbling that we may actually be destined to repeat the lunacy of what took place two years ago. However, after hearing from several well-respected government advisors and consultants, it appears as if another shutdown may indeed be a possibility.
Whereas party leaders in Congress don’t seem to support this as a measure, there is concern that they don’t have control over their caucuses, which means it may be a reality. The more likely event is that a Continuing Resolution (CR) will begin on October 1, 2015 that will carry through December 2015. There are discussions that this would allow us to maintain funding for all military and domestic programs at their current level through that time period. Simply stated, if the CR passes, any funding for new programs for 2016 may not occur and force agencies to continue into 2016 at their 2015 budget levels.
A Review of Job Positions Exempt from the 2015 Shutdown
Today, those jobs considered exempt from a shutdown are those not funded by regular appropriations; and those whose work involves the safety of human life or the protection of property.
Non-Excepted Vs. Non-Essential
During the last shutdown in 2013, the term “non-excepted” was re-introduced in a Washington Post article about the stigma associated with the term “non-essential” and how the morale of employees is the first thing affected by a shutdown whose work would be considered “non-essential”. The article cited the comment made in 1995 by then Secretary of HHS, “the first casualty of a shutdown is the morale of our employees who were incorrectly termed “non-essential”.”
Six Steps to Prepare for the Impending Government Shutdown:
- Review your contracts and determine which of them may include ‘non-essential’ personnel.
- Be intentional about the use of the language and refer to them as ‘non-excepted’ personnel.
- Talk to your clients NOW and ask them what work they believe is ‘essential’ and devise a strategy for them to advocate for those positions internally.
- Create a strategy for those employees that have the potential to be impacted. How long can you afford to pay them if they are not authorized to work? Will you require them to use PTO? At what point will you consider a furlough or even a lay off? Map out several potential actions based on what you can and cannot do.
- Be intentional about what you communicate to your employees. Not just those impacted, but all of them—as a shut-down ultimately impacts your entire organization and in the absence of information, their anxiety will create stories far worse than the reality of the situation.
- Talk to your lenders now. If there is a possibility that payment to you may be delayed, have those conversations so that you can plan for the cash flow you need to get through this period.
For additional resources and actions to consider, I encourage you to review an article we published when sequestration hit in September of 2013, Government Shutdown: What Does It Mean For Employers? and check out our blog throughout the coming days as we share additional recommendations going forward.