Federal agencies scrambling to make a 12 percent budget cut this fiscal year may use furloughs -- short-term layoffs without pay -- over the next couple of months to cut some of their $190 million daily payroll costs. Contingency plans have been drawn up in some departments and agencies for furloughing selected groups of workers one day during each two-week pay period. Others are considering furloughs that would run much longer -- perhaps for a week or two.
On Sept. 3 this column reported that government officials were dusting off seldom-used furlough plans. Officials now confirm the furlough option is getting serious consideration. Office of Personnel Management officials say the use of extended furloughs is under consideration to avoid heavy RIFs (reductions in force).
Most government agencies are under the gun to eliminate about 10 percent of their jobs over the next two years. Officials hope most of those cuts can be made through attrition -- by not filling jobs that are vacated by death, retirement or quits.
The more immediate concern involves a 12 percent spending cut the Reagan administration wants many departments and agencies to make during this fiscal year. Those cutbacks could force agencies to trim another 75,000 jobs within the next 12 months.
Because of the relatively high first-year cost of RIFs (severance pay and unemployment benefits), agencies that want to show fiscal 1982 savings would have to make RIFs over the next few months to show any savings. One alternative to RIFs is the furlough route.
U.S. furlough rules allow agency heads to temporarily take employes off the payroll in emergency situations, if they lack funds or if there is no work.
Officials at Health and Human Services and a number of other departments confirm that the furlough option is getting "serious" consideration but no plans are final.
The Reagan administration has exempted all or parts of the Defense Department, Veterans Administration, IRS, Immigration and Naturalization Service, FBI and portions of State from the job ceiling cutback that will be made over the next two years. But some of those agencies -- and all the rest -- will have to make budget cuts this this year.