N.H. state employees in federally funded jobs could be furloughed if shutdown continues
State workers whose jobs rely on federal funding will take unpaid furloughs instead of being laid off if the federal government remains shut down in the coming weeks, Gov. Maggie Hassan announced yesterday.
There are thousands of state employees whose jobs are partially or fully funded by the federal government, and Hassan’s office said some of those programs will begin to run out of money by the end of the month.
“Every day that the senseless federal government shutdown continues, the impact gets worse for New Hampshire’s families and economy,” Hassan said in a statement.
The federal government has been shut down since Oct. 1 because Congress – split between a Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate – has failed to pass a budget or continuing resolution to keep the government open.
Most programs run by the state government but funded by the federal government, such as food stamps, have continued to operate despite the shutdown. Officials, however, have warned they could begin to run out of money for some programs if the shutdown continues for long.
There are also thousands of jobs in the state government that are wholly or partially funded by federal money from various programs, including many workers at the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Education.
Hence an agreement announced yesterday between the governor and the State Employees’ Association, the largest union representing state workers. The deal, in effect through Dec. 31, means an employee whose job relies on federal funding will be furloughed, not laid off, if and when that money runs out, which Hassan’s office said could begin as soon as Nov. 1.
Those workers will receive two weeks’ notice and will retain seniority rights and other benefits. Other workers may remain on the job, and some may get a shortened or modified work scheduled instead of a furlough, depending on the program and funding situation, according to the SEA.
“I am so proud that we’re moving together to address this crisis in a way that will have the least impact on critical services,” said Diana Lacey, the SEA’s president, in a statement. “The state employees are committed to the work they do, even if Congress is not. We are putting people first, not politics.”
The deal was announced even as the SEA and Hassan’s office remain deadlocked in negotiations over a new contract.
Workers represented by the SEA have been without a contract since June 30, after union leaders rejected a tentative two-year deal that offered pay raises but also made changes to health insurance coverage, including the introduction of a deductible.
The union declared an impasse in July, and four days of mediation failed to resolve the dispute. Last month, the SEA and the state agreed to present their arguments to a neutral third party, a nonbinding process known as “fact-finding.”
Those presentations are scheduled for Oct. 25.
(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)