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Set your voicemail and clean out the fridge: A pre-shutdown memo

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. (BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images)

With the start of the first government shutdown since 2013, at least one federal agency is offering guidance to its employees about how to handle the shutdown, from big issues like whether they should report to work, to mundane office tasks.

Donald Bice, the acting deputy assistant secretary for administration for the US Department of Agriculture, said in a memo sent to workers on Friday that the agency “needs to prepare for the orderly process of shutting down due to a lapse in funding after midnight tonight.” In that memo, Bice advises workers to secure confidential data in their work area, verify their access to IT systems are not set to expire, and take out their trash, among other things.

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In another memo, US Department of Agriculture on Friday from Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue told USDA workers, “Your supervisor or manager, if they have not done so already, will reach out to you to provide information on your agency’s contingency plans and what it would mean for you, including your status during a potential lapse.”

Perdue added, “Should the funding lapse, we ask that you report to your duty station as normal on Monday for the purpose of shutting down your work station.”

Read Bice’s memo below:

***

USDA Family,

Unfortunately, no appropriations bill has passed, and USDA needs to prepare for the orderly process of shutting down due to a lapse in funding after midnight tonight. No additional financial obligations can be incurred after the lapse except those related to the orderly suspension of USDA’s programs and activities. After the lapse our agencies will start the process of an orderly shutdown of operations, including furloughs. This means most USDA activities will be shut down or significantly reduced and most USDA employees will be furloughed until the reinstatement of funding by Congress. A FAQ on shutdown is attached for your information.

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Please make plans to report to work at your normal time on Monday, January 22 for up to 3 hours to help with the orderly shutdown of your agency. You will be compensated for time spent in carrying-out the orderly suspension of operations/shutdown procedures after funding is made available.

Furloughed employees are authorized by the Department of Transportation to use their transit benefits to travel to and from work on January 22, 2018, for the purposes of conducting an orderly shutdown. After January 22, the transit benefit may only be used by employees who are excepted from the furlough. Do not use your government purchase, fleet or travel card if you are on furlough.

Please perform the following as part of your agency’s shutdown procedures:

• Secure all Personally identifiable information (PII), confidential, sensitive data in your work area and clear your open, accessible work space as appropriate.

• Verify access to IT and other system(s) are not set to expire, including resetting any passwords about to expire. Log into system(s) requiring periodic access to prevent needing an access reset when funding appropriations are provided.

• Ensure your supervisor has your current personal contact information (home and cell phone number, email address), and make sure you have your supervisor’s current personal contact information and your servicing human resources office phone number.

• Complete any organization specific shutdown activities directed by your supervisor.

• Discuss cancelling any meetings scheduled January 22, 2018, or later with your supervisor.

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• For the ease of resuming work, document the status of assignments and projects so they can be resumed, transferred, or otherwise appropriately handled when the funding is resumed.

• Remove or secure all valuable personal belongings. You will not be allowed to return to the building during the furlough to collect them.

• Remove your food items from the refrigerator and clean/remove dirty dishes. Dispose of/remove all perishable food items that belong to you.

• Ensure your trash can is clear of any perishable items and place trash bag in hallway. Lock your office door, if applicable, at departure.

• Ensure all small appliances are turned off and unplugged.

• Secure all government equipment, especially portable electronic devices.

• Language to set your out of office notification and voice mail message (desk and government issued mobile) is attached along with language for signs on doors visible to the public.

• Shut down your desk top computer completely and turn off your monitor (not just a restart, but shut it down).

• Following this, turn off your government issued mobile devices and/or laptops since use is prohibited for the duration of the furlough period by non-excepted employees. Non-excepted employee’s use of government issued equipment may result in a fine(s) of up to $5,000 or a prison sentence of up to two years.

• Employees are prohibited from using personal phones and personal private email accounts to conduct government business while on furlough.

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• You may be eligible for unemployment insurance. The following information is to help you decide if you should apply for unemployment insurance/compensation.

• If retroactive pay is approved, you are responsible for repaying any unemployment compensation you have received.

• Applications for unemployment are submitted to the state where you are employed, not where you live.

• Consider printing applicable documents (SF-8, last SF50, furlough notice/letter, creditor letter) during shutdown procedures to ensure you have the necessary materials if you choose to apply.

• Information about the unemployment compensation eligibility and the application process in your state is available at the Department of Labor’s website: http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/unemcomp.asp or at your state employment office.

• A listing of helpful unemployment insurance websites: http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/aboutui.asp

• Unemployment insurance information by location (USA map): http://www.servicelocator.org/OWSLinks.asp

• NFC’s Employee Services website with information on employment verification: https://www.nfc.usda.gov/EmployeeServices/TALX/TALXhome.html

Thank you for your dedication and professionalism in handling this situation. Please continue to monitor the news for word when our funding is restored and we report back to work. I look forward to seeing you then.

Donald Bice

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary

For Administration

***

And here’s the memo from Agriculture Secretary Perdue:

* * *

Dear USDA Family:

As I’m sure you are aware, USDA is currently funded by a Continuing Resolution (CR) which expires at midnight tonight, Friday, January 19, 2018. Congress is discussing passing another CR that would extend that deadline for a period of time. Since it is uncertain whether lawmakers will meet the deadline, we must be prudent and prepare for the possibility that funding will lapse at midnight tonight, causing a federal government shutdown.

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Your supervisor or manager, if they have not done so already, will reach out to you to provide information on your agency’s contingency plans and what it would mean for you, including your status during a potential lapse. If you perform duties that, by law, must continue regardless of appropriations, you are considered “excepted” and will continue to report for work. If your duties do not fall into this category, your “non-excepted” status means that, by law, you cannot continue to work. Finally, if your position is not funded by an annual appropriations bill, you may be considered “exempt” and be able to continue working. Your supervisor will tell you about your status and what to expect.

Should the funding lapse, we ask that you report to your duty station as normal on Monday for the purpose of shutting down your work station. This would include setting “out of office” email messages and updating outgoing voicemail messages, for which you will be provided templates. In addition, remove any perishable food items to prevent spoilage. Please place any trash receptacles in hallways and turn out lights. We cannot know the duration of any funding lapse, so please prepare your work space to accommodate an indefinite absence.

Once these tasks are performed, you must leave work and refrain from performing any work-related duties. Activities in which you may not engage include, without limitation: receiving or sending work emails, placing or receiving work phone calls, using USDA technology, or performing any duties related to your position at USDA. In short, during the funding lapse, you are prohibited by law from working.

We ask that you stay informed about the status of the government shutdown via normal news outlets and social media (using personal devices only).

Thank you for everything you do to benefit the farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers who depend on our services every day. And thank you for your continued efforts to do right and feed everyone.

Sonny Perdue

Secretary


Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Brian J. White can be reached atbrian.white@globe.com.