The Senate Disbursing Office sent a memo to staffers on Tuesday alerting them that if Congress does not reopen the government, they will not be getting checks on their Friday payday. Additionally, they were told that if retroactive pay is not approved, furloughed staff could lose out both on that salary and other benefits.
In a prime example of how a government shutdown affects federal workers, it’s not just actual salary payments that are on hold. Staffers enrolled in the government’s Student Loan Repayment Program were informed that the government’s payments will not be made to their lenders and that they “should make alternate payment arrangements,” according to the memo obtained by Roll Call.
If the back pay bill is not approved by the Senate (the House already passed it), staffers who were furloughed every day of the pay period would be on the hook for the full cost of the missed loan payments.
The government likely would not pay the penalties accrued by cash-strapped staffers missing the government’s payment. Thrift Savings Plan loan payments, used by some staffers for homes and cars, will not be withheld or transmitted. Long-term care payments, according to the memo, will only be directly billed to staffers if three payments are missed.
To say that morale among Hill staffers is low would be an understatement.
The Senate memo was delivered on the same day news broke that the House again was proposing to take away employer contributions for staff health care benefits. Employees who work for members of Congress have become caught in the crosshairs of a fight that some Republicans have said is an attempt to “exempt Congress” from Obamacare exchanges. But most American workers on the exchanges retain their employer contribution and the GOP author of provision forcing members and staff to use the exchanges has blamed a drafting error for causing problems with the employer contribution for congressional staffers.
Read the full Disbursing memo here.