(Updated below) After years of a stagnant economy, furloughs are nothing new to private-sector workers — including newspaper reporters! — and even many state and local employees. But now they’re affecting the federal government.
It’s not because of the economy, though. The Senate needed to pass legislation last week to extend federal highway and transit programs — and the legislation was blocked by Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., who said he objected to the bill because it wasn’t deficit-neutral. The legislation stalled.
The result? The Transportation Department has to furlough nearly 2,000 employees, starting today, and ending… whenever the bill gets passed. Furloughs affect employees in four DOT divisions: The Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Research and Innovative Technology Administration.
A full statement on the furloughs, from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, is pasted after the jump.
I want to give you an update on the furlough of certain employees at the U.S. Department of Transportation that will begin on Monday, March 1.
The authority for spending funds from the Highway Trust Fund expires today, February 28, 2010. The Congress has adjourned and it is unlikely to resolve this issue before Monday morning.
As a result, the Department of Transportation will furlough nearly 2,000 employees without pay beginning Monday, March 1. I very much regret the hardship that this will cause to those employees and their families.
Furloughs will affect employees at the following agencies: the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Research and Innovative Technology Administration.
All employees at the Department of Transportation, including those who work in one of the four modes listed above, should report for work Monday morning as they normally would unless given specific alternate instructions.
DOT employees who do NOT work in one of these four modes are NOT affected and should follow their normal routines.
The Department is monitoring this situation very closely and is making every effort to identify potential solutions as quickly as possible.
The blocked legislation also contained an extension to federal unemployment benefits — so tens of thousands of people will lose their unemployment checks today.
Update: A commenter asks why DOT asked soon-to-be furloughed employees to show up this morning. The answer: The agency needed to figure out which employees were essential, and which were not; the latter group was sent home, and some of them were paid for three hours of work, the duration of time they spent in the office.