Thousands of government workers, including the people who get out Social Security and other pension checks, could be put on extended furloughs beginning as early as this month.
Budgets and supplemental money requests for programs or to cover last October's 4.8 percent federal pay raise are caught up in politicial-ideological battles in Congress, and between Capitol Hill and the White House.
Major units of the Labor and Treasury departments, with thousands of employes here, are coming down to the time when they either get the money or start furloughs.
The House approved one of the money packages late Wednesday, but it added more than a billion dollars for other items. White House aides say the president may veto it.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has alerted its 1,921 workers (the bulk of them here) that they may have to start furloughs by May 28 unless they get a $5.6 million supplemental request soon. BLS is talking about 14 furlough days (one every two weeks) through early August, then one day a week through Sept. 30.
Employment and Standards Administration's 3,700 staffers have been told that they may have to take 15 furlough days between now and Sept. 30. Furloughs would start June 7 for Washington area workers and June 14 for field personnel. Exempt are aides funded from Black Lung and Longshoreman and Harbor benefits programs.
Another Labor agency, the Employment and Training Administration (formerly the Manpower Administration), has braced its 2,600 staffers for 26 days of furloughs (two days a week) beginning in mid-June.
A number of Treasury Department operations, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and the Government Financial Operations unit, need supplementals to cover last year's pay raise or they will have to begin furloughs in June. Officials hope that operations involved in producing Social Security and other benefit checks can be legally exempted from any furloughs if they become necessary for other workers.
Of course, if agencies get their money soon enough, the furloughs will be avoided.
Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have honest differences about budgets, and priorities. Everybody understands that. But what federal workers don't understand is why Congress lets the budget flaps run to the 11th hour, then load them up with items that guarantee more delay or vetoes.
If the budget hassle delays Social Security payments, which go to 1 of every 6 Americans, nobody is going to understand.