As the federal shutdown goes into its third week please be aware of what national park staff are going through. This comes from a NPS employee and applies to NPS staff:
1. We do NOT automatically get back pay. Congress has to pass
legislation approving it. There is a non-zero chance that we won’t get
paid at all.
2. If we apply for unemployment and then get back
pay, we have to pay that unemployment money back to the state, with very
few exceptions. We are not getting “double salary”.
3. We are
not “getting a vacation”. Since we cannot predict when the government
will reopen and we’re not bringing in a salary, most of us are sitting
around trying not to spend money on anything but the essentials,
anxiously awaiting word that we can return to our jobs. It is not
relaxing or fun.
4. We cannot legally do ANY work during the
shutdown unless we are excepted employees, and then we can only do
necessary duties. That means that I legally cannot communicate with
colleagues, write papers, conduct research that will protect lives and
property, distribute publications that the taxpayers paid me to write
about volcanic hazards, talk with the media about subjects in which I
have expertise, etc. Zero. Zip. Nada. My scientific career has basically
come to a grinding halt.
5. If we get another job during a
shutdown, the ethics rules we’re legally bound to follow mean that it
cannot be in anything related to the expertise for which we are
federally employed. That means other jobs we could qualify for in the
interim are likely going to be lower-paying and insufficient to cover
the expenses that we’ve normally planned for.
6. Federal contract
workers may never get paid for the time they cannot work during the
shutdown, since their employers are under zero obligation to give them
backpay. They are often the lowest-paid people in our workplaces to
begin with, and shutdowns hurt them immensely.