Civil servants could be placed on temporary unemployment or forced to do unpaid work as early as Sunday.
Civil servants across the United States, who will soon be temporarily laid off or forced to work without pay, received official notices on Thursday, September 28, of the federal budget paralysis that will begin on Sunday if elected representatives in Congress fail to do so hear doing.
Federal administration and military employees have been preparing for this “shutdown” for several days. But as the deadline approaches and Democrats and Republicans appear deadlocked, it seems more and more inevitable. Ministries and public services put themselves on alert and informed their employees about the expected consequences. “Certain and pre-registered employees would be placed on temporary technical unemployment, meaning they would not be eligible to work or use the department’s resources,” the Department of Health warned in an email sent to employees on Thursday was read by AFP. You then have to wait for the “shutdown” to end in order to receive your salary retroactively.
The longest period of fiscal paralysis in the United States lasted 35 days in December 2018 and January 2019. Services deemed “essential” would be maintained. The only solution to avoid a brutal cut on Sunday, October 1st at 12:00 p.m.: a last-minute agreement between Democrats and Republicans. A compromise was reached in the Senate on a short-term budget proposal that allowed a few additional weeks for the agreement. It is supported by the vast majority of elected officials. However, the situation is deadlocked in the House of Representatives. A handful of Trumpist elected Republicans are refusing to vote on a text that would include financial aid to Ukraine.
Ministries work in slow motion
The White House continues to condemn these elected officials for blocking any agreement, just over a year before the presidential election. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer attacked the House Republican leader. “A dozen extremists (…) have more influence over (Kevin) McCarthy than the majority of his party and the vast majority of the House of Representatives, which he presides over,” he denounced.
With a large proportion of civil servants unemployed, ministries will work slowly until both houses of Congress pass the same budget text. The Department of Health will “experience staff reductions in nearly all departments for the duration of this period,” according to the email received by employees. “Many of our key programs and activities would continue, albeit with reduced staffing,” it said.
In the event of a paralysis lasting just a few days, “our soldiers would be forced to continue working, but without pay, (…) and thousands of their civilian colleagues would be unemployed,” said Pentagon spokesman Sabrina Singh. “A shutdown is the worst situation,” she added, “which is why we continue to call on Congress to do its job and fund the government.”
Air traffic disrupted
Paralysis would have very serious consequences in a variety of areas, from food aid, which could be reduced, to national parks, which would no longer be maintained. Calls to tax centers would go unanswered, the Treasury Department said. This is also expected to significantly impact air traffic as air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Agency (TSA) officials will be affected. In the transportation sector, a “shutdown” could have “disruptive and dangerous” consequences, warned US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Wednesday.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) spokeswoman, interviewed during a press conference on Thursday morning, indicated that she sees this “as an avoidable risk to the American economy.” “We encourage the parties to come together to reach consensus on funding for the U.S. government,” added Julie Kozack.