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Information for Furloughed Employees

General

  • What is a furlough?
    • A furlough is the placing of an employee in a temporary nonduty, nonpay status because of lack of work or funds, or other non-disciplinary reasons.
  • What is a shutdown furlough and why is a shutdown furlough necessary?
    • In the event that funds are not available through an appropriations law or continuing resolution, a “shutdown” furlough occurs. A shutdown furlough is necessary when an agency no longer has the necessary funds to operate and must shut down those activities which are not excepted pursuant to the Anti-Deficiency Act (31 U.S.C. §§ 1341-1342).

Who Can Keep Working and Who Must Be Furloughed

  • How do I know whether I will be furloughed?
    • You will receive an email from your supervisor; you can also speak with your supervisor. Whether or not an employee will be furloughed depends on the funding source for their base salary and the work they are performing. Employees will either be considered “exempt” or “excepted” and therefore not subject to furlough, or considered “non-exempt” and furloughed.
  • Who are “exempt” employees?
    • Employees are considered “exempt” and not subject to furlough if their salaries are funded from other than annually appropriated and lapsing funds. Such employees include Reservists, Cadre of On-Call Response/Recovery Employees (COREs), and Local Hires whose salaries are funded from the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF or Fund 6). These employees will generally continue to work.
  • Who are “excepted” employees (sometimes also known as “designated as exempt”)?
    • In the context of shutdown furloughs, the term “excepted” is used to refer to employees whose salaries are funded through lapsing appropriations who are nonetheless excepted from the furlough because they are performing work that, by law, may continue to be performed during a lapse in appropriations. Excepted employees include employees who are performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property or performing certain other types of excepted work. Some Permanent Full Time Employees (PFTs) funded out of a lapsing appropriation, who would not normally be excepted by virtue of the work they usually perform, may be excepted from furlough because they are deployed in support of a disaster.
  • Who are non-exempt employees?
    • Employees whose base salaries are funded by a lapsing appropriation, such as Fund Code OS, and who are not excepted are considered “non-exempt,” which means they will be furloughed in the event of a lapse and barred from working during the shutdown, except to perform minimal activities as necessary to execute an orderly suspension of agency operations. 
  • If I’m excepted from furlough because I’m deployed, and my deployment ends during a shutdown, or I’m scheduled to rotate home on leave during a shutdown, must I stay deployed, or can I rotate home or demobilize and return to my duty station?
    • You can rotate home or demobilize and return to your duty station as originally scheduled. At that time however, you will no longer be performing work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property and will be furloughed.

Notifications and Information Sharing During a Lapse

  • How will employees be notified that they will be furloughed?
    • An employee’s supervisor will formally notify the employee of his/her exempt/non-exempt status via email. 
    • Formal notification of furlough to non-exempt employees will be provided by the employee’s chain of command,, via e-mail.
    • To avoid duplication of notification and confusion for Regional and Headquarters employees deployed to a JFO or other site, the chain of command at the employee’s permanent duty station  should handle the notices.
  • If an employee is on leave or out of the country, how will they be contacted if there is a furlough?
    • The employee’s chain of command will furlough the employee via email notification. If the lapse does not end before the employee returns from leave, an official in the employee’s reporting chain can confirm the furlough notice upon the employee’s return.
  • How will I be notified about my furlough status during the course of a shutdown?
    • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FEMA senior leadership will communicate to FEMA employees through All Hands email messages. You can also monitor media outlets for public information about the shutdown.
  • Since not all employees have mobile devices (cell phones, tablets, etc.), how will they be notified to return to work?
    • Employees who do not have a FEMA cell phone should monitor their phones for ENS notifications or other means of receiving emails such as their personal computer, and/or consult other news media for information.

Shutdown Procedures and Approved Activities during a Lapse

  • If a lapse occurs and I’ve been informed I will be furloughed, what am I required to do as part of the orderly shutdown?
    • Employees will be given four hours on their first workday after the lapse to close out their work. According to OMB, an orderly shutdown “should take no more than three or four hours to provide necessary notices and contact information, secure files, complete time and attendance records, and otherwise make preparations to preserve work.” While greater than four hours may be required in very limited circumstances, employees are expected to make every effort to prepare for these needs in advance of a lapse so that orderly shutdown activities are minimized.
    • Employees will be asked to activate their out of office message with language provided by their supervisors, change their outgoing voicemail message, and shut down their computer. Based on an employee’s job duties, orderly shutdown could include other activities.
  • If I am furloughed but want to continue working, can I?
    • No. If you are furloughed, you are not allowed to work. If you are furloughed, you may only passively monitor your FEMA cell phone or tablet device and respond to emergency recall notifications but you cannot reply to email on government issued devices (other than recall notifications). Working when furloughed could constitute an Anti-Deficiency Act violation. Such violations require a report to the President, Congress, and the Comptroller General and can result in administrative discipline. Further, an employee who knowingly and willfully violates the Anti-Deficiency Act may be subject to criminal penalties in the form of a fine up to $5,000 or imprisonment for up to two years, or both.
  • If I am not furloughed, what work activities and functions are allowable during the lapse?
    • Exempt Employees: Generally, if the funding source that you are paid from has not lapsed and you are exempt from furlough, then you can continue to do the same work you were doing prior to the lapse. But if your work requires the assistance or approval of someone who has been furloughed, your work must stop at that point where such assistance or approval is required. You also generally should not take on work that was previously performed by a furloughed employee.
    • Excepted Employees: If you are paid from a lapsed appropriation and are excepted from furlough for reasons of safety of human life or protection of property, your work must support FEMA activities necessary for safety of human life and/or protection of property, including disaster response and the provision of Individual Assistance. If there is not enough excepted work to occupy the majority of your day then you may have to be furloughed.
  • Will the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) Enterprise Services continue during a lapse in appropriations?
    • Yes. All Enterprise Services, including network, email, and data centers will continue to run and be operational during a lapse. Appropriate DHS/FEMA personnel will be deemed excepted so that disaster activity support may continue. If FEMA requires an enterprise change to meet our mission, we will follow emergency change processes; however, routine system changes will be impacted by a lapse in appropriations.
  • What are the ethics rules on outside employment during a lapse in appropriations?
    • During a government shutdown, FEMA employees must continue to comply with all ethics laws and regulations, including the criminal conflict of interest laws, the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch, and the DHS Supplemental Ethics Regulation.
    • Furlough status does not affect the existing rules and considerations that FEMA employees must follow before engaging in outside activities. Please see important additional information from the U.S. Office of Government Ethics: https://www2.oge.gov/web/oge.nsf/Outside%20Employment%20and%20Activities/708625348C6E912185257E9600636501?opendocument.
  • May exempt employees continue to contact and work with government contractors during a shutdown?
    • Exempt employees may continue to work with government contractors if the contracts involve exempt or excepted activities. In the event of a shutdown, non-exempt employees will be furloughed and cannot work.

Travel Guidance during Appropriations Lapse

  • If a non-exempt employee who has been furloughed has reservations for lodging and/or a rental car through National Travel for travel scheduled up to two weeks after the potential lapse, should the employee cancel those reservations?
    • Yes. If you are furloughed, since you can’t do any work, your travel reservations should be cancelled by contacting National Travel. Please keep a record of all of the corresponding cancellation numbers.
  • Will employees responsible for processing travel vouchers be furloughed, and if so, will this stop the processing of travel vouchers?
    • FEMA will continue to process travel vouchers, but only ones paid from non-lapsing funds.
  • I cannot complete my travel voucher because I am prohibited from doing so while on furlough. Do I have to pay my government issued travel charge card?
    • Yes. The employee must pay the balance on the government issued travel charge card.
    • During a Government shutdown or funding lapse or hiatus, travel vouchers of non-exempted employees will not be processed; thus, these reimbursements will be delayed until funds are appropriated and available. Employees must remain mindful of their personal government-issued travel charge card  responsibilities. If a delinquency occurs as a result of the shutdown, the issuing bank may work with individual cardholders on a case-by-case basis to address hardships caused by this event. Individual decisions regarding how to assist each cardholder will be made by the bank. Standard processes including account aging, late fees and finance charges would remain in force unless it is determined by the bank not to assess these charges.
  • Do employees need to be within a certain distance/commute time at all times while they are furloughed (e.g., some may want to leave the area for a few days)?
    • Generally, there is no requirement for employees to remain within a certain distance during while furloughed during a shutdown. But as soon as a new appropriation is enacted and the furlough is over, employees will need to report to work the next working day or get approved for leave using standard procedures.

Pay and Benefits During a Lapse

  • UPDATED: OPM Fact Sheet – Pay and Benefits Information for Employees Affects by Lapse (https://chcoc.gov/content/fact-sheet-pay-and-benefits-information-employees-affected-lapse-appropriations)
  • For exempt personnel (employees who are funded out of non-lapsing appropriations), what will be the impact on their pay?
    • Exempt employees will be paid on time for hours worked. Employees should validate their timecards with hours worked as normal. If programs have the necessary review structure in place, timecards can be reviewed for accuracy, but OCCHCO will certify all timecards.
  • For excepted personnel (employees who are funded out of a lapsing appropriation but who have been determined to be excepted from furlough because of the nature of the work they are performing) what will be the impact on their pay?
    • Excepted employees will not be paid during a shutdown, as doing so could result in an Anti-Deficiency Act violation. These employees will be paid for work performed during the shutdown after Congress passes and the President signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution.
  • For non-exempt (furloughed) personnel, what will be the impact on their pay?
    • Non-exempt employees will not be paid during a shutdown.
    • While Congress has chosen to provide back pay following previous government shutdowns, there is no guarantee that furloughed employees will be paid for the period of the lapse. Congress will determine whether employees receive pay for the furlough period.
    • If Congress authorizes retroactive pay after the shutdown, further guidance will be issued by OCCHCO dependent upon when a law is signed and where it falls in the payroll/personnel processing cycle. If Congress does not authorize retroactive pay, furlough actions will be transmitted to e-OPF and become part of the employee’s permanent personnel record.
    • Employees will receive a paycheck for hours worked prior to a lapse in appropriation.
  • What should employees do in terms of entering their time in WebTA?
    • Exempt and excepted employees can continue to enter their time in WebTA. Non-exempt employees are prohibited from working, and will be not able to enter their time if furloughed.
    • Timecards for non-exempt employees must be completed to the extent possible before the furlough when the employee performs orderly shutdown procedures.
    • Time worked during the four hours of time available for the orderly shutdown of operations will be paid to furloughed employees, once an appropriation or a continuing resolution is passed. These hours should not be recorded on your timecard until further instruction by OCCHCO.
  • If I am recalled from furlough due to disaster operations, what will be the impact on my pay?
  • Employees recalled from furlough to support disaster operations will receive their base pay only after Congress appropriates funds. Overtime will be paid from the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF); however, FEMA’s pay systems require the actual payment of base pay before the system will process overtime pay. This means no payment will be issued until the lapse is over and Congress appropriates funds. Although you may document any approved overtime you earn during this period, our pay systems will only process that documentation with the obligation of base pay.
  • When an employee’s pay is insufficient to permit all deductions to be made because a furlough occurs in the in the middle of a pay period and the employee receives a partial paycheck, what is the order of withholding precedence?
  • Can an employee take annual leave during a lapse in appropriations?
    • Exempt employees, including COREs, may take annual leave subject to supervisory approval.
    • Excepted employees may not take leave. They must either report for duty or be furloughed.
    • Non-exempt employees paid from Fund OS or another fund that has lapsed are furloughed and cannot be on leave status.
  • Can an employee take sick leave during a lapse in appropriations?
    • Exempt employees may take sick leave using standard procedures.
    • Excepted employees must either be present for work or be placed on furlough. If an employee becomes sick and needs to take sick leave, they must be furloughed, but could be recalled for excepted activities when able to return.
    • Non-exempt employees are furloughed and will not be permitted to take paid sick leave during a lapse in appropriations.
  • Will sick and annual leave still accumulate or will this take place upon an employee’s return?
    • Employees will accrue sick and annual until they accumulate 80 hours of non-pay, which includes leave without pay (LWOP), furlough and/or suspension.  However if retroactive pay legislation is passed and signed into law, corrected timecards will reflect the leave accrual once the government resumes operations.
  • If an employee has properly scheduled use of “restored annual leave” that is due to expire at the end of the leave year (because it is the end of the 2-year restoration period) but that leave is canceled and lost due to a lapse in appropriations, may the employing agency restore that leave again?
    • No, unless Congress enacts specific legislation providing otherwise. There is nothing in existing law or regulation that allows restored annual leave to be restored a second time. In fact, the Comptroller General has determined that unused restored annual leave may not be restored after expiration of the 2-year period. (See B-213380, August 20, 1984.)
  • Will Transit Subsidies be available after an appropriations lapse?
    • The Department of Transportation confirmed that transit subsidies will be automatically uploaded on the 10th of each month for all employees currently enrolled in the debit card program to carry them forward with full benefits through the 9th of the following month. Debit card holders who are in the National Capital Region utilizing the Commuter Direct Mail Service (renewable orders) will need to notify Commuter Direct immediately at 703-228-7433 to inform them to cancel any reoccurring orders. Failure to notify Commuter Direct will result in the employee receiving Transit tickets shipped at their own expense using the secondary payment type that is on file with Commuter Direct.
    • The SmartTrip card subsidy accounts are scheduled to upload on the first of each month. Funds are intended to remain on the individual’s Smartcard through the end of each month, however the SmartBenefits funds should only be utilized by exempt or excepted employees reporting for duty.
    • All transit users are reminded that these benefits are only for authorized travel to and from the workplace.
  • My SmartTrip card has a combination of subsidy and personal funds on it. What are the rules for using my card during a lapse?
    • Per Department of Transportation guidance, it is recommended that you use a separate Smartcard during furlough days to ensure that you do not use your Federal benefits.
  • How will my Flexible Spending Account (FSAFEDS) be affected?
    • Payroll deductions will cease for any employee who does not receive pay. The employee remains enrolled in FSAFEDS, but eligible health care claims incurred during a non-pay status will not be reimbursed until the employee returns to a pay status and allotments are successfully restarted. The remaining allotments are recalculated over the remaining pay periods to match the participant’s election amount.
    • Eligible dependent care expenses incurred during a non-pay status may be reimbursed up to whatever balance is in the employee’s dependent care account, as long as the expense incurred during the non-pay status allows the employee (or spouse if married) to work, look for work or attend school full-time.
  • Will an employee continue to be covered under the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program during a shutdown if the agency is unable to make its premium payments on time?
    • Yes, the employee’s FEHB coverage will continue even if an agency does not make the premium payments on time. For employees in a non-pay status, the enrollee share of the FEHB premium will accumulate and be withheld from pay upon return to pay status.
  • What happens if an employee wants to terminate Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) coverage while in a non-pay status in order to avoid the expense?
    • Unlike other types of non-pay status, employees in a non-pay status due to a lapse in appropriations (shutdown furlough) will not have the opportunity to terminate or cancel FEHB coverage. The employee will remain covered; the enrollee share of the FEHB premium will accumulate and be withheld from pay upon return to pay status.
  • Will my life insurance be affected?
    • Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) coverage continues for 12 consecutive months in a non-pay status without cost to the employee or to the agency. Neither the employee nor the agency incurs a debt during this period of non-pay status.
  • Will the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) be affected if there is a lapse?
    • Payroll deductions will cease for any employee that does not receive pay. Coverage will continue so long as premiums are paid. If Long Term Care Partners (LTCP) does not receive payment for three consecutive pay periods, they will begin to direct bill the enrollee. The enrollee should pay premiums directly billed to him/her on a timely basis to ensure continuation of coverage.
  • How will my Federal Dental and Vision (FEDVIP) plan be affected?
    • Payroll deduction will cease for any employee that does not receive pay. BENEFEDS will generate a bill to enrollees for premiums when no payment is received for two consecutive pay periods. The enrollee should pay premiums directly billed to him/her on a timely basis to ensure continuation of coverage.
  • How will the furlough affect my Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)?
    • For those who have contributed to the federal TSP, you may obtain more information by visiting the website, www.tsp.gov. You can also learn more about general purpose loans on this website.
  • How will a lapse affect my retirement?
    • If a shutdown furlough occurs during the three years of service prior to an employee’s retirement, generally there will be no effect on the high-3 average pay unless the furlough causes the employee to be in a non-pay status for more than 6 months during the calendar year.
  • Is it possible that furloughed employees may become eligible for unemployment compensation?
    • The Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees program provides benefits for eligible unemployed former civilian federal employees. The program is administered by states as agents of the federal government. This program is operated under the same terms and conditions that apply to regular State Unemployment Insurance (see http://www.servicelocator.org/OWSLinks.asp). In general, the law of the state in which your last official duty station in federal civilian service was located will be the state law that determines eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits.
    • Additional information about unemployment compensation for federal employees can be found at http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/unemcomp.asp. Please be advised that if Congress, as it has following previous government shutdowns, retroactively choses to provide back pay, the unemployment compensation received may have to be returned.
  • How can I access my eOPF and SF-50 from my personal computer in the event of a lapse?
    • Follow these instructions if you need to access your eOPF:
    • Go to https://eopf.nbc.gov/dhs/ and click “Accept.” This should bring you to the main login page.
    • Click “Forgot your eOPF ID?” and follow the directions on the following screen.
    • After you receive your user ID return to the main login page and click “NewUser - Request Password” and follow the directions on the screen.
    • Within five minutes, you should receive your password in your government e-mail. Please retain this important information in a secure location. Remember that, as with any other online data system, the information contained in the eOPF system is private and sensitive. Sharing of User IDs and passwords is strictly forbidden.
  • Which Employee Assistance Program (EAP) resources would still be available to employees in the event of a lapse in appropriations?
    • EAP will still be available for all employees. You can access EAP toll-free at 1-800- 222-0364 or visit their web site at www.FOH4You.com or http://www.dhs.gov/employee-assistance-program-eap to find information and resources. In addition, employees may want to contact their financial institution, credit union or learn about other options for financial assistance through the Thrift Savings Plan (www.tsp.gov).

Lapse Impacts on Non-FEMA Personnel Supporting FEMA Operations

  • How are personnel working for FEMA under mobility agreements pursuant to the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) treated in a lapse?
    • The specific authority for furloughing personnel who are working under mobility agreements pursuant to the IPA, either inside the Federal Government or with other organizations, will depend upon the nature of individual agreements, the status of the appointments, and/or the funding arrangements for the assignments. As a general rule, the following principles are applicable in determining whether to furlough personnel on IPA mobility assignments:
      • Personnel from non-Federal organizations on appointments to the Federal Government are subject to furlough in the same manner as other employees.
      • Personnel on detail to Federal agencies from non-Federal organizations may continue working, provided that the non-Federal organizations pay the total costs of the detail.
      • Personnel on detail to Federal agencies from non-Federal organizations that share part of the costs of the detail may continue to work if the Federal portion of the cost was obligated from prior appropriations at the time of the IPA mobility agreements. In the event that a furlough takes place during a time for which no funds are appropriated, the assignment should be terminated.
      • Personnel on detail to Federal agencies from non-Federal organizations that do not pay or share the costs of the detail are subject to furlough in the same manner as other employees.
  • How are Other Federal Agency (OFA) employees performing work for FEMA as part of a Mission Assignment or the Surge Capacity Force (SCF) treated during a shutdown?
    • FEMA generally requests that Federal employees of OFA working under a Mission Assignment or as deployed SCF, be designated as excepted by their home agencies, in which case their base salary would continue to be paid by their parent agency appropriations. FEMA would continue to fund Mission Assigned and SCF employees’ incremental salary and travel and per diem costs from the DRF.
    • With respect to any deployed DHS component agency SCF , FEMA generally works with the Department to designate these employees as excepted. If designated as excepted, their base salary would continue to be paid by their parent agency appropriations. FEMA would continue to fund the SCF employee’s incremental salary and travel and per diem costs from the DRF.

Training during a Lapse

  • What is the status of National Emergency Training Center, U.S. Fire Administration, National Fire Academy, and Emergency Management Institute during a lapse in appropriations?
    • There will be a suspension of all functions of the National Emergency Training Center (NETC), including the operations of the United States Fire Administration (USFA), National Fire Academy (NFA), and the Emergency Management Institute (EMI). This suspension includes the closing of the NETC Facility and buildings to all federal staff, government-contracted staff (with the exception of necessary guard staff), and public visitors. FEMA will publicize event cancellations on webpages controlled by FEMA, USFA, NFA, and EMI.
  • Will training be cancelled during a shutdown? Can I do online training?
    • Training at the Emmitsburg and Anniston facilities will be cancelled in the event of a lapse. Students will be notified ahead of time.
    • If an employee is non-exempt they cannot attend or complete training upon notification of furlough.
    • Excepted employees are not permitted to take training during a lapse, as training is not considered an excepted function.
    • Exempt employees, including CORE employees are encouraged to complete their mandatory on-line training during a funding lapse.

Employee Resources

Last Updated: 
01/17/2019 - 17:08