Questions and Answers Government Shutdown
Based on guidance received as of 11 Oct 13, provided below is a summary of frequently asked Q&A’s on Employee Benefits and Pay During the Shutdown Furlough.
The Army Benefits Center has established a toll free number for questions regarding unemployment. Employees should call 1-866-792-7620 with questions.
1. What can I expect on my paychecks?
EXEMPT FROM FURLOUGH. These employees will receive their regular pay and allowances, since they are not affected by the lapse in appropriations (e.g., multi-year appropriations). Exempt employees may also take annual and sick leave and normal Federal holiday rules apply for Columbus Day.
FURLOUGHED EMPLOYEES. Those employees who were furloughed on 1 October, and have not been recalled to work, will receive their regular pay and allowances for the hours they worked from 23 through 30 September. Hours spent in a furlough status will not be paid unless and until Congress and the President authorize restored pay for furloughed Federal employees. Note that House approved a bill to authorize retroactive pay for furloughed employees, but as of this date, the Senate had not yet voted on the bill.
EXCEPTED FROM FURLOUGH. Excepted employees will receive their regular pay and allowances for the hours they worked from 23 through 30 September and 1-4 October. Pay for hours the following pay period, beginning 6 October, will be deferred and not received until after the there is a 2014 appropriation.
EMPLOYEES RECALLED UNDER POMA. Employees furloughed on 1 October, and then recalled to work based on the Pay Our Military Act (POMA), effective 6 October, will receive their regular pay and allowances for hours they worked from 23 through 30 September. Pay for hours worked 1-4 October will depend on individual circumstances. Pay for hours beginning 6 October will be received (not deferred) on the regular pay dates.
2. Will I receive back pay for the time I spend in furlough status?
Don’t know. Unless Congress passes legislation to restore pay and allowances for time spent in a furlough status, AND there is a 2014 appropriation for the Department, employees who spent time in a furlough status for the period 1 – 5 Oct, and those who continue to be in a furlough status, will not receive pay or allowances for the days upon which they were (are) furloughed. These employees will be paid for the time spent conducting orderly shutdown activities on 1 Oct 13, but will not receive that pay until there is a 2014 appropriation for the Department by which they may be paid. The House has passed a bill that would provide retroactive pay for employees affected by the furlough, but as of the date of this document, the Senate had not yet voted on this bill.
For the pay period that ended 5 October, employees may access their Leave and Earnings Statement or W-2 thru MyPay at https://mypay.dfas.mil/mypay.aspx.
3. May I take paid annual leave or sick leave if I am excepted or exempt from furlough?
Exempt employees and those employees recalled to full time duty under POMA may use paid annual and sick leave.
Excepted USACE employees, who are not covered under POMA, may not use annual or sick leave.
Furloughed employees remain in a non-pay and non-duty status and may not use annual or sick leave.
4. I didn’t receive any bi-weekly accrual of sick or annual leave. What happened?
Furlough (and any other non-paid time) may affect leave accrual. Some employees have already taken six furlough days (48 hours) during the administrative furlough this year, and then had an additional 32 hours during the shutdown furlough. When a total of 80 hours in a non-pay status is reached during a calendar leave year, employees do not earn the sick and annual leave that would have otherwise accrued during the pay period in which the 80-hour leave-without-pay is reached. If Congress restores pay to furloughed employees, any lost leave will also be restored.
5. Will I receive pay for Columbus Day?
Holiday leave (and pay) for USACE civilian employees during the Fiscal Year 2014 shutdown furlough will vary by individual, depending on their status (exempt, excepted, recalled under the provisions of the Pay Our Military Act (POMA), or furloughed).
Exempt from Furlough:
Normal Federal holiday rules apply for Columbus Day and subsequent holidays for all USACE employees who were exempted from the shutdown furlough (e.g., multi-year appropriations). Such employees will receive pay for holiday, either through holiday leave if not at work or holiday premium pay if required to work (because of shift or emergency work).
Excepted from Furlough:
USACE employees in this category will be in a furlough status if they are not required to work the Columbus Day holiday. Excepted employees not performing work on excepted activities must be placed in a furlough status for non-working hours. Excepted employees who are not working on the holiday would be furloughed for the day. If Congress restores pay to furloughed employees, lost pay for any Federal holiday that fell within the furlough period will be restored.
Employees Recalled under POMA, Direct Funded Military:
Normal Federal holiday rules apply for Columbus Day and subsequent holidays for all USACE employees who have been recalled to work based on POMA. Such employees will be paid for the day.
USACE employees in a non-pay and non-duty status would also not receive pay for the holiday itself. If Congress restores pay to furloughed employees, lost pay for any Federal holiday that fell within the furlough period will be restored.
6. To what extent does a shutdown furlough affect my Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) coverage?
FEHB enrollment continues for up to 365 days in a non-pay status. The employee contributions continue to accrue while employees are in a non-pay status. The premiums accumulate and are withheld from the employee’s pay upon returning to a pay status.
7. Will I continue to be covered under the FEHB program if the agency is unable to make its premium payments on time?
Yes, your FEHB coverage will continue even if the agency does not make the premium payments on time.
8. To what extent does a shutdown furlough affect my Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) coverage?
FEGLI coverage continues for 12 consecutive months while in a non-pay status without cost to the employee or the agency. The non-pay status may be continuous or it may be broken by a return to duty for periods of less than four consecutive months.
9. Will my TSP investments be affected by a Government shutdown? What about disbursements?
Investment activity will continue. Share prices and account balances will continue to be updated each business day, and loans and withdrawals will continue to be disbursed.
10. What happens to my TSP contributions?
If you are not paid during a furlough, your TSP contributions will stop, and, if you are a Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) employee, you will not receive agency contributions during this time.
11. Can I take a TSP loan while I’m furloughed?
No. The TSP has adopted an administrative rule that provides that TSP participants must be in a pay status in order to take a TSP loan. 5 C.F.R. 1655.2(b). The TSP adopted this rule because it generally requires TSP participants to agree to repay their loans through payroll deduction. 5 C.F.R. 1655.12(b). The first payment is due on or before the 60th day following the loan issue date. 5 C.F.R. 1655.14(c). However, by law, a TSP participant may take a TSP loan any time before entering furlough or non-pay status. 5 U.S.C. 8433(g)(1).
12. What impact does the furlough have on an employee’s loan payments?
If you have an outstanding loan and you are furloughed, your loan payments will stop because they are deducted from your pay. Loans are not considered in default until the participant has missed more than 2½ payments. If you miss a loan payment (or two) as a result of the furlough, you always have the option to make direct payments to the TSP using the Loan Payment Coupon available in the Forms & Publications section on the TSP Web site. Otherwise, your loan term will be extended or, if you have requested the maximum loan term, you may have a balloon payment at the end of the loan term. If you miss more than 2½ payments, TSP will notify you by mail that you must mail in a personal check for the “cure” amount to get your loan back on track.
13. Are agencies required to send in a Form TSP-41 notifying the TSP when employees have been furloughed?
14. Can the Government take money from the TSP to resolve the financial situation?
No, the money in the TSP is held in trust for its participants. Neither Congress nor the Administration can take money from an employee’s TSP account.
15. To what extent does non-pay status affect Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) coverage?
Deductions will cease for periods of non-pay status where there are insufficient funds to cover the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) premium(s). Employees cannot contribute to their TSP accounts while on furlough, unless they are furloughed for less than a pay period. Employees should refer to the TSP Fact Sheet, Effect of Non-pay Status on TSP Participation. The fact sheet can be found at http://www.tsp.gov/forms/oc95-4w.pdf.
For more information please visit the TSP website at: https://www.tsp.gov/index.shtml
16. To what extent does a shutdown furlough affect my Flexible Spending Account (FSAFEDS) coverage?
Health Care Expenses: Deductions will cease for periods of non-pay status where there are insufficient funds to cover the FSA premium(s). Eligible health claims incurred during non-pay status will not be reimbursed until the employee returns to a pay status and allotments are successfully restarted. The remaining amounts are recalculated over the remaining pay periods to match the participant’s election amount.
Dependent Care Expenses: Eligible dependent care expenses incurred during non-pay status may be reimbursed up to the balance 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. When the employee returns to a pay status, allotments will be recalculated based on the number of pay dates remaining in the Benefit period.
17. To what extent does a shutdown furlough affect LTC coverage?
Payroll deductions cease when the employee is placed in a non-pay status and there are insufficient funds to cover the premium(s). In order for employees to continue LTC coverage, the employee must make payments while in a non-pay status. If Long Term Care Partners 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 or her on a timely basis to ensure continuation of coverage. Visit the LTC Web site, https://www.ltcfeds.com/documents
for more information.
18. To what extent does a shutdown furlough affect Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Plan (FEDVIP)
FEDVIP payroll deductions cease when an employee is placed in a non-pay status and there are insufficient funds to cover the premium(s). In order for FEDVIP coverage to continue, employees must make payments while in a non-pay status. If premiums are not paid, coverage will be terminated at the end of the pay period in which premiums were last paid.
To avoid termination of FEDVIP benefits, an employee can be moved to a Direct Bill payment plan, by request. With this option, an employee would receive a statement by postal delivery and the invoice must be paid by check. Employees are required to pay all Direct Bills IN FULL to avoid the cancellation of their coverage/plan. If a full payment is not received by the due date, the coverage will be cancelled.
Employees can mail direct bill premiums to:
P.O. Box 797
Greenland, NH 03840-0797
Visit the FEDVIP web site https://www.benefeds.com for more information.
19. To what extent will a furlough affect my retirement?
Generally, there is no impact on retirement eligibility, service credit, or high-3 average pay calculation as long as the non-pay status is less than 6 months per calendar year.
20. What if I want to retire during the furlough?
For employees who, on or before the requested retirement date, submitted some type of notice of their desire to retire, agencies should when the lapse in appropriations ends, make the retirement effective as of the date requested. The retirement request may be informal (such as a letter requesting retirement), and can be either mailed or personally submitted to the agency. Any additional paperwork, such as the formal retirement application form, may be completed when the agency reopens. Note that the Army Benefits Center – Civilian does have minimal staffing during the furlough. They may not be able to process retirement applications, because of lack of staff at their site or OPM, but retirement applications may be submitted and will be processed as timely as possible.
21. I recently retired from Federal service. Will my retirement applications be delayed by a government shutdown?
If your agency or payroll center submitted your retirement application to OPM, you will begin receiving interim annuity payments while OPM retirement specialists process your application. Because OPM Retirement Services is funded by the Trust Fund it manages, OPM Retirement Services employees will still be working normal operating hours during a government furlough.