Seals of the Court of Appeals and Superior Court
District of Columbia Courts

Furlough FAQs

Compilation of Free and Reduced-price Food in the DMV

OPM Fact Sheet on Pay & Benefits

Financial Assistance

Sample letters to creditors, mortgage companies, and landlords

 

 

 

Furlough FAQs

1. What is a furlough?

A. A furlough is the placing of an employee in a temporary nonduty, nonpay status because of lack of work or funds, or other nondisciplinary reasons.

2. What is a shutdown furlough and why is a shutdown furlough necessary?

A. 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 Antideficiency Act (31 U.S.C. 1341-1342).


Working during Furlough
1. May an employee volunteer to do his or her job on a nonpay basis during a shutdown furlough?

A. No. Unless otherwise authorized by law, an agency may not accept the voluntary services of an employee.

2. What happens to employees scheduled for training during a shutdown furlough?

A. Employees who are furloughed and are scheduled for training during a shutdown furlough must be placed in a furlough status and ordered not to attend the scheduled training.

3. May employees take other jobs while on furlough?

A. While on furlough, an individual remains an employee of the DC Courts. Therefore, before engaging in outside employment, employees should review court policy to determine if there is a possible conflict. Employees may also consult with the general counsel office to learn if there are any agency- specific supplemental rules governing the employee.

Pay
1. Will employees deemed essential be paid for performing work during a shutdown furlough? If so, when will excepted employees receive such payments?

A. Agencies will incur obligations to pay for services performed by employees deemed essential during a lapse in appropriations, and those employees will be paid after Congress passes and the President signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution.

2. Will employees who are furloughed get paid?

A. Congress will determine whether furloughed employees receive pay for the furlough period.

3. Will employees receive a paycheck for hours worked prior to a lapse in appropriations?

A. Under Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance issued in 1980, employees will receive this paycheck.

Within-Grade Increases
1. May agencies deny or delay within-grade or step increases for employees during a shutdown furlough?

A. It depends on how long the shutdown furlough lasts. Within-grade and step increases for employees are awarded on the basis of length of service and individual performance. Such increases may not be denied or delayed solely because of lack of funds. However, extended periods of nonpay status (e.g., because of a furlough for lack of funds) may affect the timing of such increases. For example, an employee in steps 1, 2, or 3 of the grade who is furloughed an aggregate of more than 2 workweeks during the waiting period would have his or her within-grade increase delayed by at least a full pay period.

Leave and Other Time Off
1. May an employee not excepted from the furlough take previously approved paid time off (e.g., annual, sick, court, military leave, or leave for bone marrow/organ donor leave, or compensatory time off, including religious compensatory time off) during a shutdown furlough?

A. No. All paid time off during a shutdown furlough period must be canceled because the requirement to furlough supersedes leave and other paid time off rights. The Antideficiency Act (31 U.S.C. 1341 et seq.) does not allow authorization of any expenditure or obligation before an appropriation is made, unless authorized by law. Paid time off creates a debt to the Government that is not authorized by the Act. Therefore, agencies are instructed that during a shutdown furlough, all paid time off must be canceled.

2. May an employee deemed essential take previously approved paid time off or be granted new requests for paid time off during a shutdown furlough?

A. No. When an employee is deemed excepted and is not working or not performing excepted activities in compliance with the Antideficiency Act, he or she cannot be in a pay status. Employees must be either performing excepted activities or furloughed during any absence from work. The furlough must be documented by a furlough notice. If an essential employee refuses to report for work after being ordered to do so, he or she will be considered to be absent without leave (AWOL) and will be subject to any consequences that may follow from being AWOL.

3. Does a shutdown furlough affect the accrual of annual leave and sick leave?

A. If an employee is furloughed (i.e., placed in nonpay status) for part of a biweekly pay period, the employee’s leave accrual will generally not be affected for that pay period. However, the accumulation of nonpay status hours during a leave year can affect the accrual of annual leave and sick leave over a period of time. For example, when a full-time employee with an 80-hour biweekly tour of duty accumulates a total of 80 hours of nonpay status from the beginning of the leave year (either in one pay period, or over the course of several pay periods), the employee will not earn annual and sick leave in the pay period in which that 80-hour accumulation is reached. If the employee again accumulates 80 hours of nonpay status, he or she will again not earn leave in the pay period in which that new 80-hour total is reached. At the end of the leave year, any accumulation of nonpay status hours of less than 80 hours is zeroed out so that the accumulation of nonpay status hours for the next leave year starts at zero.
 

Note 1: The term “nonpay status” refers to the period during which an employee is absent from his or her tour of duty established for leave usage purposes and receives no pay for such absence. Furlough is one type of nonpay status.

Note 2: The term “leave year” is defined as the period beginning on the first day of the first full biweekly pay period in a calendar year and ends on the day immediately before the first day of the first full biweekly pay period in the following calendar year.

Benefits
1. Will an employee continue to be covered under the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program during a shutdown furlough if the agency is unable to make its premium payments on time?

A. Yes. The employee’s FEHB coverage will continue even if an agency does not make the premium payments on time. Since the employee will be in a non-pay status, the enrollee share of the FEHB premium will accumulate and be withheld from pay upon return to pay status.

2. What happens if an employee wants to terminate Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) coverage while in a nonpay status in order to avoid the expense?

A. Unlike other types of non-pay status, employees in a non-pay status due to a lapse of 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.

3. If an employee submitted a new application or a change to his/her health insurance plan (e.g., because of a Qualifying Life Event) and the paperwork was not processed by the agency because of a shutdown furlough, how would the employee seek services or coverage?

A. New enrollments or changes in enrollment due to a Qualifying Life Event do not take effect until the employee has been back in pay status for any part of the prior pay period.

4. How will someone know whether his or her FEHB enrollment request was fully processed and sent to the new health plan?

A. If the individual receives an ID card, the enrollment in the new plan is effective. If an ID card is not received, the enrollment has not been processed.

5. What happens to an employee’s Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Program coverage if furloughed?

A. Coverage continues for 12 consecutive months in a nonpay status without cost to the employee or to the agency. Neither the employee nor the agency incurs a debt during this period of nonpay.

6. What happens to an employee’s Flexible Spending Account (FSAFEDS) coverage if furloughed?

A. 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.

7. Will the effective date of my FSAFEDS enrollment be affected?

A. No.

8. What happens to an employee’s Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) coverage if furloughed?

A. Payroll deductions will cease for any employee who does not receive pay. Coverage will continue so long as premiums are paid. If Long Term Care Partners do 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.

9. What happens to an employee’s Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) coverage if furloughed?

A. Payroll deductions will cease for any employee who 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.

10. Will the effective date of my FEDVIP Open Season enrollment be affected?

A. No.

11. What is the effect of a shutdown furlough on Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) contributions, investments, and loans?

A. Agencies and employees should refer to the TSP website or contact their the Human Resources representative for information.

12. Can I take a TSP loan while I’m furloughed?

A. Agencies and employees should refer to the TSP website or contact their agency representative for information.

Unemployment Compensation
13. Are employees entitled to unemployment compensation while on furlough?

A. It is possible that furloughed employees may become eligible for unemployment compensation. State unemployment compensation requirements differ. For more information contact the Department of Employment Services at https://does.dc.gov/service/start-your-unemployment-compensation-process

Employee Assistance
14. What resources are available if an employee needs financial assistance during a government shutdown?

A. Employee Assistance Program (EAP) includes some financial consultation services. In addition, employees may want to contact their financial institution, credit union or learn about their options through the Thrift Savings Plan (www.tsp.gov).

15. How will employees access Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services in the event of a government shutdown?

A. EAP services can be helpful in providing confidential counseling and coaching with experienced, licensed counselors—including legal and financial consultation. Federal employees are advised to contact their agency’s EAP office to determine whether services will be available in the event of a lapse in appropriations. The Courts’ Employee Assistance Program is serviced by Federal Occupational Health (FOH), a division of HHS. Employees may contact the toll free EAP phone number: (800) 222-0364 (TTY (888) 262-7848) to find out how to access EAP services during a lapse in appropriations.

Service Credit for Various Purposes
1. Is furlough or leave without pay (LWOP) considered a break in service?

A. No. Both mean the employee is in a nonpay, nonduty status for those days/hours. However, extended furlough or LWOP may affect the calculation of creditable service for certain purposes.

2. To what extent does nonpay status affect employee benefits and programs?

A. The effects of a nonpay status (which includes furlough, leave without pay, absence without leave, and suspension) on l employee benefits and programs vary based on current law and regulation. For additional information, see OPM’s fact sheet on the “Effect of Extended Leave Without Pay (or Other Nonpay Status) on Federal Benefits and Programs” at http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/leave-administration/fact- sheets/effect-of-extended-leave-without-pay-lwop-or-other-nonpay-status-on-federal- benefits-and-programs/.

Retirement
1. If a shutdown furlough occurs during the 3 years of service prior to retirement, what effect will time in a furlough status have on an employee’s high-3 average pay?

A. Generally there will be no effect on the high-3 average pay unless the furlough causes the employee to be in a nonpay status for more than 6 months during the calendar year.

2. Are the retirement rules concerning the effect of a shutdown furlough the same for employees under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)?

A. Yes.

If you have any further questions,  please call the receptionist desk in the HR Division at 202-879-0496.

 

Compilation of Free and Reduced-price Food in the DMV

Reduced or Free Food for Staff during Federal Government Shutdown

 

OPM Fact Sheet on Pay & Benefits

OPM Fact Sheet on Pay & Benefits During the Shutdown

 

Financial Assistance

 

Court employees may be interested in the following options to assist them during the lapse in appropriations:

 

 

Credit Unions and Banks

 

Some banks and credit unions are offering Special Assistance to government employees affected by the government shutdown.  The assistance includes low or no-interest payroll advances and loans for workers facing dwindling cash reserves. We suggest you reach out to your financial institutions for additional information.

 

Thrift Saving Plan (TSP)

 

Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Financial Hardship Withdrawals: TSP account holders may be eligible for a financial hardship in-service withdrawal.  Withdrawal amounts are limited to the financial need.  Account holders can apply for a withdrawal on-line at www.tsp.gov.  A few things to keep in mind when considering a withdrawal: (1) account holders will not be able to make TSP contributions for 6 months after a withdrawal; (2) the total amount withdrawn cannot exceed the amount of the financial hardship; (3) If you are younger than 59½, you may have to pay a 10% early withdrawal penalty tax; and (4) If you are a FERS participant, you will not receive any Agency/Service Matching Contributions for the period during which you are not making employee contributions. However, your Agency/Service Automatic (1%) Contributions will continue.


Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Loans: TSP allows account holders access to the money in their accounts. You can borrow your own contributions and associated earnings in your account.  General purpose loans can be repaid in 1 to 5 years.  No documentation is required.  You can still contribute to your account after the furlough is over (they do not have to wait the six months).  In addition, the participant can still receive agency matching contributions.  The TSP Loan is not considered a taxable distribution so they will not be responsible for paying taxes on the loan. More information on the TSP Loans can be found in the TSP Booklet.

 

The TSP will continue its normal daily operations during the federal government shutdown. Read the TSP fact sheet Effect of Nonpay Status on Your TSP AccountPDF file to get answers to questions about the shutdown’s impact on TSP contributions, loans, and withdrawals.

 

Unemployment Compensation

 

It is possible that furloughed employees may become eligible for unemployment compensation. State unemployment compensation requirements differ. To obtain more information or to apply for unemployment compensation, please visit https://does.dc.gov/service/start-your-unemployment-compensation-process.  You will be asked to submit your latest SF 50, Personnel Action and SF 8, Unemployment Compensation Form.  You can obtain the latest SF 50 from your electronic Official Personnel Folder (eOPF) by visiting: https://eopf.opm.gov/dccourts/.   If you are having trouble accessing the eOPF system, please contact HR on 202-879-0496.  Click here for the SF 8 form.

 

Please keep in mind that employees who receive unemployment benefits and also later receive a retroactive payment from their employer for the same time period will be required to repay the unemployment benefits received.

 

Sample letters to creditors, mortgage companies, and landlords

 

The information below was prepared by the US Office of Personnel Management and modified to apply to DC Courts employees. Following are sample letters that you may use as a guide when working with your creditors.  Unfortunately, we cannot provide you with personal legal advice.  If you need legal advice to assist you in any response to creditors, landlords or the like, consult with your personal attorney or contact your state or county bar association, many of which maintain lawyer referral services.

Things to consider:
* Speak with your landlord, mortgage company, or creditor first before you write a letter.  Just sending a letter may not be very effective as it will take a fair amount of time to get to the individual who needs to see it, if at all.  Speaking with your creditors will enable you to work out the details of any payment plan that you can later confirm with your letter.

* Be sure to send the letter directly to the person to whom you have spoken to confirm your request for a reduced payment plan.

* Make sure that you have all the necessary information in your letter including account number, address of the property, and a telephone number where you can be reached.

* Be sure to keep a copy of the letter.  In some situations, you may want to send the letter by certified mail.  You may also want to fax the letter to the company. 

Sample Letter to Creditor

Sample Letter to Creditor

Dear (Name of Company or individual with whom you have spoken)

This is to confirm our conversation of (date) in which we discussed a temporary reduction in my monthly payment.

As we discussed, I am an employee of the District of Columbia Courts who has recently been furloughed due to a lack of funding.  Because of this, my income has been severely affected and I am unable to pay the entire cost of my monthly payments, along with my other expenses.

As we had agreed in our conversation, I will be able to make regular payments in the amount of $_______.  I realize that I will be responsible to pay the remainder of the payments and, when I return to work, I will contact you immediately to work out a plan to take care of the reduced payments.  I will also keep in touch with you to keep you informed about my income status.

I appreciate your willingness to work with me and your understanding during this difficult time.

Sincerely,
(Name)

Account Number

Address

Telephone Number
 

Sample Letter to Mortgage Company

Sample Letter to Mortgage Company

Dear (Name of Company or individual with whom you have spoken)

This is to confirm our conversation of (date) in which we discussed a temporary reduction in my mortgage payment.

As we discussed, I am an employee of the District of Columbia Courts who has recently been furloughed due to a lack of funding of my agency.  Because of this, my income has been severely cut and I am unable to pay the entire cost of my mortgage, along with my other expenses.

As we had agreed in our conversation, I will be able to make regular payments in the amount of $_______.  I realize that I will be responsible to pay the remainder of the payments and, when I return to work, I will contact you immediately to work out a plan to take care of the reduced payments.  I will also keep in touch with you to keep you informed about my income status.

I appreciate your willingness to work with me and your understanding during this difficult time.

Sincerely,
(Name)

Account Number

Address

Telephone Number

 

Sample Letter to Landlord

Dear (Name of Company or individual with whom you have spoken):

This is to confirm our conversation of (date) in which we discussed a temporary reduction in my monthly rent.

As we discussed, I am a DC Courts employee who has recently been furloughed due to a lack of funding of my agency.  Because of this, my income has been severely cut and I am unable to pay the entire cost of my rent, along with my other expenses.
As we had agreed in our conversation, I will be able to make regular payments in the amount of $_______. I realize that I will be responsible to pay the remainder of the payments and, when I return to work, I will contact you immediately to work out a plan to take care of the reduced payments.  I will keep in touch with you to keep you informed about my income status.

I appreciate your willingness to work with me and your understanding during this difficult time.

Sincerely,

(Name)
Address
Telephone Number

If you have any further questions,  please call the receptionist desk in the HR Division at 202-879-0496.