SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — With the threat of a government shutdown looming, federal employees face an uncertain holiday season. While some would be furloughed, others would have to work without pay. California is home to about 250,000 federal employees.
If there is shutdown, entitlements like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) could continue. Also the military and Veterans Administration are funded through September 30, 2019.
Places that would close include national parks, NASA, and the Environmental Protection Agency. Nearly all employees at those offices would not work and would not be paid.
Employees at other agencies who perform “essential services” would have to work but would not be paid. Those include nearly all employees at the Department of Justice (including those working with special prosecutor Robert Mueller), the Transportation Security Administration, and Customs and Border Protection.
KPIX 5 security expert, Jeff Harp, a former FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge, was furloughed right after graduating from the FBI Academy during a 1995 government shutdown.
“Its a morale killer,” Harp said. “It really kind of deflates your whole purpose and idea of the American Way and protecting the people if suddenly you’re like, ‘I’m not gonna get paid and I can’t take vacation.'”
It’s not just unfortunate to have unpaid employees. Harp says there could be security issues. The holidays are always a time to be on high alert because that’s when people get together. “These gatherings are soft targets for people who want to do harm to the American people,” said Harp.
After past shutdowns, employees who performed unpaid work have been paid once the budget is approved, and Harp is quick to add that security forces will do their duty even without pay. Still, the situation can add stress.
“We live in an expensive area and I couldn’t venture to guess how many people live paycheck to paycheck,” said Harp. “But I’m certain there are some and if they don’t get paid for a two-week period, that hurts.”
Harp says during the high alert holiday season, “You want to have the feeling that you’re completely supported by your administration, by the country and you’re getting paid for what you do.”