The federal government has been shut down for 27 days and hundreds of thousands of workers have gone for weeks without pay.
As of now, it's unclear when the shutdown will end.
In the meantime, here are some tips about what federal workers can and can't do during the shutdown:
- Seek outside work: One option for furloughed federal workers is to get another, temporary job. But the restrictions can be complex or specific and they do have to follow federal ethics rules, which could limit the type of work or amount of money they can earn, and they are subject to being recalled to their government job on short notice.
- Apply for unemployment insurance: Much like employees who are laid off from a private sector job, federal employees who are furloughed are generally eligible to apply for unemployment insurance from their state. Unemployment insurance typically must be paid back, either by the employee or through paycheck garnishments. Unemployment insurance, however, is not available for federal employees required to work without pay through the shutdown.
- Apply for assistance from banks or credit unions: As CNN reported, some financial institutions are offering payroll advances or low- or no- interest loans. These options are generally meant for short-term needs, and may be less helpful to employees the longer the shutdown stretches on.
- Report to work, if requested: Furloughed employees have been recalled to work, as we have seen in several cases. IRS and National Park Service employees, for example, have been called back to perform specific work since the shutdown began in late December. But in most cases, this work is not paid until the shutdown is over.
- Quit or retire: Some federal employees who are fed up with the uncertainty may decide to quit and take their talents to the private sector, a tough decision given the hoops many of them had to go through in order to acquire a federal job. If an employee has met the age or years of service requirements to qualify for their federal retirement program, they may be able to retire, or take deferred retirement. If not, an employee may be eligible to receive their retirement contributions as a lump sum payment, which could be rolled into an IRA or other retirement plan.