Sequester Makes Memorial Day Weekend Longer for Federal Employees

Friday, 24 May 2013 11:01 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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About 115,000 federal workers across four agencies are having to take an unpaid day off Friday, turning their Memorial Day weekend into a four-day mini-vacation.

The Friday unpaid furloughs were ordered at the Internal Revenue Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Housing and Urban Development, and the White House Office of Management and Budget as a result of the sequester-related budget cutbacks that took effect in March, Politico reports.

In addition, some employees at the Labor and Interior departments are also having to take an extra unpaid day off tied to the holiday weekend, which traditionally marks the official start of summer.

Some Republicans cheered the news that the IRS will be closed Friday.

"The more days the IRS is closed, the better our economy will probably do," said Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise.

Congress has stopped some employee furloughs, including those at the Federal Aviation Administration that were blamed for flight delays and cancellations. Other agencies, including the departments of Justice, State, and Homeland Security have decided to make budget adjustments elsewhere to avoid furloughs.

But more furloughs are planned in the upcoming months, especially at the Defense Department which has scheduled unpaid leave for 650,000 civilian workers on July 8, giving many of them a five-day holiday weekend around the Fourth of July.

The IRS also has at least four other furlough days scheduled for this year on June 14, July 5, July 22, and Aug. 30. Those unpaid days off are expected to save about $600 million. The agency may also add two more days off in August and September.

Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has scheduled July 5 as an unpaid leave day for its employees, a move that's causing some concern among lawmakers. Spokeswoman Ciaran Clayton said the agency that tracks severe weather through the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center can cancel the furloughs for emergencies if necessary.

But Rep. Frank Wolf, who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that controls funding for NOAA said the agency should skip the furloughs.

"If NOAA furloughs anyone, it'll be a black eye on this administration" if an emergency pops up, the Virginia Republican said in a letter to Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, who oversees NOAA operations.

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