Shutdown Impact Spreads Beyond the Federal Workforce

Last week’s FEDtalk round table featured Jessie Bur of Federal Times, Charles Clark of Government Executive, and Jason Miller of Federal News Network with host Jason Briefel for insiders’ perspectives on how the shutdown in affecting the federal government. Their discussion brought listeners outside of just the federal workforce to understand how the shutdown impacts contractors, local businesses, and innovations throughout the entire federal community.

As Bur reminded listeners in the beginning of the show, while it is likely federal employees will receive back pay for their time on furlough, it is unlikely the same will be true for federal contractors. While some contracting firms are dipping into their savings to pay federal contractors who have been placed on leave since the shutdown began, most will be unable to provide back pay for their employees.

Moving forward, this instability could affect whether some firms will seek large government contracts. As Bur pointed out, contracting firms may have to look elsewhere or risk losing employees who require more stability in their lives.

Working for or with the federal government was once a synonym for stability, but the string of shutdowns in recent years has altered this reputation.

Miller explained this could be what tips the shutdown from bad to worse: “People like to [say] contractors are the bad guys or bad women. But… small businesses especially are being hurt in a big way and I think what it will take to get some movement is not the federal employees complaining… but it’s the contractors and the other people in the community-the farmers, the growers, and the people who need their food stamps and medical care that’s not happening- I think when those people start to rise up is when we’ll see movement [on the shutdown].”

Clark added that the woes for federal contractors began even before the shutdown.

Clark noted, “The contractors also suffer from a lack of communication because the shutdown happened pretty quickly… I was told that some of [the contractors] who work inside agency buildings did not know whether or not they should show up and they showed up and were locked out, physically.”

The roundtable guests noted how the shutdown impacts the DC area, a frequent host of conferences in a variety of industries.  Many of these conferences are canceled or postponed during the shutdown.

Miller provided the example of the federal IT world. He noted that conferences are “how work gets done” because they provide a positive space for theories to be challenged, innovation to be fostered, and partnerships to form.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate has already postponed their annual cybersecurity showcase.

The impact of these closed conferences is not just a lapse in networking opportunities, but also a loss to surrounding businesses. Hotels go from fully booked to vacant, restaurants experience a lull, and even the local coffee shops expecting a morning rush are forced to go without.

As Miller says, “It all trickles down.”

To listen to the full FEDtalk radio show, which continues the in-depth discussion into shutdown impacts and projects the most important federal workforce-related issues for 2019, click here.

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