If you are one of the country’s two million federal workers right now, you’re in one of two categories: excepted or non-excepted. An impasse among lawmakers on a spending plan for 2011 has most federal employees hoping they are in the former category, because if an agreement by lawmakers can’t be reached by midnight tonight, the government will be shut down.

And those workers in the non-excepted camp risk being furloughed without pay until lawmakers can agree on a plan.

According to CNN’s MoneyLine, there are about 800,000 excepted employees. Those include workers needed to continue the operating functions of essential work. People like air traffic controllers and TSA workers, and federal police and military personnel. Those employees are expected to be credited with back pay when a spending bill is eventually passed.

According to the Office of Personnel Management, there are three categories of “excepted” employees:

  1. performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property;
  2. performing minimal activities as necessary to execute an orderly suspension of agency operations related to non-excepted activities; or
  3. performing certain other types of excepted work. Agency legal counsels, working with senior agency managers, are determining which employees are designated to be handling “excepted” and “non-excepted” functions.

According to OPM, employees will be notified by their supervisor of their status as excepted or non-excepted workers. During the time of the furlough, some benefits, like unpaid leave and vacation may be canceled, but other benefits, like Federal Employee Health Benefits are ongoing—in other words, your health insurance will still be good.

For more information, see the Q&A page at the Office of Personnel Management website.

Military personnel

According to the Defense Department, Sec. Robert Gates told military personnel in Iraq on Thursday that if a shutdown took place, they would receive a paycheck with half pay. The following pay period, there would be no paycheck. Deputy Secretary William Lynn III released a statement that said military personnel should show up for work at their next schedule duty day after any shutdown. Civilian personnel would be briefed on their status by supervisors.

Local businesses:

According to Kristen Minogue, spokesman for the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, SERC will be closed. Public programs will be suspended until the shutdown is over.

Local government and defense contractors will not be paid during the shutdown, but contracted workers and completed contract work will be compensated once a spending plan is finalized. Hopefully, for most local businesses that rely on government contracts, they can float payroll to staff until Congress and the White House reach a consensus.


BWI Thurgood Marshall International Airport: Both Transportation Security Administration and Air Traffic Controllers are considered emergency personnel and as a result, services at airports will not be impacted by the shutdown.

Metro: WMATA will be running both bus and Metro subway service on time, but perhaps using fewer cars on trains and fewer buses into the city. According to a press statement from the transit authority, “[W]e estimate that the temporary shuttering of certain federal government offices could reduce ridership from 5 to 20 percent, depending upon the decisions made to continue some federal operations and essential services. In the event ridership decreases to levels of federal holidays, we may operate fewer 8-car trains.”

Dillon’s Bus Service: Commuter service out of Annapolis and Davidsonville will continue operating on a normal schedule.

MARC train service will be operating on a normal schedule.

Government Services

Veterans Health Administration medical centers are considered essential and will be open. However, veterans will not be able to apply for new benefits during a shutdown. The two local Veteran’s Administration centers that would be impacted:

  • Annapolis Vet Center, 1419 Forest Dr., Suite 102, Annapolis, Md., 21403. 410-605-7826.
  • Glen Burnie VA Outpatient Clinic, 808 Landmark Drive, Suite 128, Glen Burnie, Md., 21061. 410-590-4140

National Parks

National Parks and National Historic Sites will be closed. National Park Service-operated roadways and parkways (George Washington Memorial Parkway, Baltimore-Washington Parkway) will remain open and operational. Click here for a complete list of National Parks in Maryland.

Home Loan Applications

Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-administered loans will be suspended. New paperwork filings will be on hold until the shutdown is over. FHA loans account for approximately 30 percent of home loans secured in America.

Income Tax

With the Tax Day deadline set for April 18, the Internal Revenue Service will halt the processing of payments and refunds on paper-filed income taxes. Online, or e-filing, will carry on and refunds for e-filers will continue to be processed.

A local Broadneck resident and federal government employee, described her current feelings on the situation to Broadneck Patch:

“It seems like they forget that federal employees also have student loans, car payments, and rent to pay. Not all federal employees are lazy or “should-be-retired” money-wasters. It’s not nice that they lump everyone into one category. Furlough will not only make federal employees more jaded than they already are (morale is very low as it is), inefficiency will be rampant…which is what people criticize the government for anyway. OPM says that federal employees can apply for unemployment. Why not let federal employees DO THEIR JOBS rather than let them eat away that money?  Seems really backwards.”



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