US federal workers owed US$2b in back pay from government shutdown

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 November, 2013, 7:33pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 November, 2013, 3:31am


Lost work: 6.6 million days. Back-pay costs: US$2 billion. Private-sector jobs lost: 120,000.

Those are just some of the costs of the 16-day partial US government shutdown that ended last month, the Obama administration said in a detailed report released Thursday. The effects may seem small in the context of a US$16 trillion economy, but they can add up to less effective government service, and at a higher cost.

The report comes as a second shutdown remains a possibility unless Congress can pass a budget or provide more stopgap financing for the government.

But top Republicans, wary since the backlash over the October shutdown, have made it clear they do not intend to force another impasse. A bipartisan group of legislators is working behind closed doors on a budget agreement, but expectations for a major deal are low, given the policy gulf between Democrats and Republicans.

The House-Senate negotiating committee has a mid-December deadline, and the government's financing expires again in January. The Treasury would lose the authority to issue new debt in February.

"This manufactured crisis damaged the economy, cost us jobs and hurt middle-class families," said Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski, chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

This manufactured crisis damaged the economy, cost us jobs and hurt middle-class families
Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski

The most direct cost, the report said, is the US$2 billion in back pay that will go to federal workers who were sent home on leave.

Other direct costs come from missed entrance and other fees from national parks, interest due on late payments, the curtailing of tax enforcement actions and certain stop-work orders.