As the likelihood of government furloughs grows, federal workers are checking to see what happens to their benefits if the budget impasse isn't solved by Monday. Here's a rundown of the situation:
Believe it or not, you can take another government job (if you can find one) while you are on furlough from your own federal agency.
If furloughed, you cannot volunteer to work free at your agency. It is against the law.
You can't take vacation days in lieu of being furloughed.
Life insurance policies still are in effect while on furlough.
Health insurance coverage also continues for furloughed employees. The government will continue to pick up about 60 percent of the total premium. Workers may have premiums withheld from their paychecks and may be able to reschedule payments if their checks aren't large enough to cover premiums.
Retirement credit continues to build for employees on furloughs. There will be no effect on the high-three-year average salary pension calculation unless employees are furloughed for six months or longer.
Federal employees are allowed to collect unemployment benefits, but eligibility depends on the rules of the state that is their official duty station. For instance, you could live in Virginia, work in Maryland, but be with an agency that has its official duty station in the District. In that case, D.C. unemployment rules would determine eligibility. Generally speaking, workers in Grades 10 and above would not qualify for benefits unless they are furloughed four days a week. But in every case, it depends on salary and state rules. The maximum unemployment benefit in the District is $293 per week. In Maryland, it is $205 per week. In Virginia, it is $176 per week. Wolf Furlough Stand
Rep. Frank R. Wolf (Va.) was the only Republican on the House Appropriations Committee who voted to head off furloughs of federal workers next week. On Tuesday, the committee approved a continuing resolution that would delay spending cuts, due to begin Monday, for 20 days.
Other Republicans on the committee followed the White House line. They voted against extending the deadline for approving a budget. President Bush said he wants the budget issue settled by this weekend. He said he believes the extension will remove the pressure to finish the job.
Wolf, who has tangled with the White House before on federal worker and retiree issues, voted with the Democrats seeking to delay the automatic budget cuts that would trigger the furloughs. COLA Cut Protest
The National Association of Retired Federal Employees has set up an instant telegram service that lets people send (for $7.50 billed to their phone) a prepared save-the-pension- system message to their representatives in Congress. One of the money-saving items being considered by the budget summit group is a freeze or delay in cost of living adjustments for retired federal and military personnel. To send a message, call 1-800-257-4900 and ask for hot line 9772.