Here we go again; For a second time, federal workers turn around and head back home

By David Montgomery and Stephen Barr
Thursday, March 3, 2011; 11:53 AM

From The Washington Post archives

Published: December 19, 1995, Tuesday, Final Edition

Tens of thousands of federal employees streamed from government office buildings around the region before noon yesterday, the first disrupted workday in an ugly reprise of the last shutdown less than a month ago. Everything had an eerie familiarity. Once again, workers were uncertain whether they would be paid for the forced furlough, a more pressing concern now, with credit card balances already fattened for the holidays. Once more, a number of federal services were suspended indefinitely, and tourists were locked out of national parks, museums and monuments. Even the weather was the same: cold rain.

Nobody had asked for an encore.

"If you make a mistake once, that's okay. If you make it twice, people say, 'Didn't you learn your lesson?' " said Howard Brayer, 39, a furloughed budget analyst at the Education Department.

The shutdown, which began Saturday when much of the Mall was placed off-limits to tourists, sent about 260,000 federal employees home across the country. The shutdown will cost at least $ 40 million a day in lost productivity, measured by the wages of the furloughed workers. [White House says all furloughed workers are "essential," Page A10.]

That's far fewer than the 800,000 workers initially furloughed Nov. 14-19 at a daily cost of at least $ 120 million. Despite the smaller numbers, Shutdown II comes as agencies push to complete end-of-the-year business, such as grants to states, and close their books for the first quarter of the fiscal year.

For each day of the shutdown, 2,500 families will not be able to close on their mortgages because new federal housing insurance guarantees were stopped, removing $ 200 million a day in housing transactions from the economy. About 260 businesses that receive loans from the Small Business Administration will not get financing, about $ 40 million a day.

If the shutdown lasts through the week, it will delay at least two of the government's major benefit payments: including $ 4.5 billion in welfare assistance to 13.3 million recipients and $ 1.4 billion in checks to 3.3 million veterans and their survivors. Yesterday, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said he was not ready to decide whether furloughed employees should receive

retroactive pay.

"Many Americans on the one hand want to get to a balanced budget; on the other hand [they] don't understand why people would be paid if they don't work," Gingrich said. "I'm not prepared to make a statement either way about what we should do." Spokesmen for Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) and the White House said federal employees should not be held responsible for the shutdown and said Dole and President Clinton support back pay. Gingrich's

remarks spread throughout an already demoralized federal work force, renewing fears that workers could lose pay during the holiday season. If the shutdown drags through the week, some agencies might not catch up on processing payrolls in time to cut January checks. Carla Lloyd, 30, took her two young daughters to work with her at the Bureau of Health Resources Development in Rockville yesterday. "I told my babysitter that I may not get paid if we are furloughed, and then I can't pay her," Lloyd said. "It's really upsetting."

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