Federal workers in Indiana concerned about potential government shutdown

IN Focus: Indiana Politics

INDIANAPOLIS – Thousands of federal workers, including some Hoosiers, could be furloughed next week if Congress doesn’t reach a deal on a new government funding package.

If a new government funding plan is not approved by the end of the month, the government would shut down October 1. That would leave thousands of federal employees – including many people here in Indiana – out of work or forced to work without pay.

But unlike previous debates over government funding, this one comes at the same time the U.S. faces a deadline to raise the debt ceiling or default on its loans.

With one week left until the potential government shutdown, the Office of Management and Budget has started notifying federal agencies about the expected impact.

The last government shutdown – nearly three years ago – ran 35 days and affected roughly 800,000 federal workers.

“The last shutdown was absolutely horrific,” said Duncan Giles, who runs Indiana’s chapter of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents about 350 IRS employees across the state.

Giles said he and his members are reaching out to lawmakers, urging them to work together on a deal to keep the government open.

“We have an awful lot of people that live paycheck-to-paycheck,” Giles said, adding that “it’s nerve-wracking for myself and others that watch this to wait ’til the last minute and possibly have to worry about the impact on our folks.”

Recently, the House passed a bill along party lines that funds the government through December 3 and raises the debt ceiling.

Republicans have said they won’t support a debt limit increase, leaving Senate Democrats to try to come up with a way to raise the debt ceiling on their own.

“Everybody is starting to get a little concerned about how much money we’re borrowing, and this is a good point to take a breather and not keep raising the debt ceiling,” Sen. Mike Braun (R-Indiana) said in an interview Wednesday.

A spokesperson for Sen. Todd Young said supports a Republican-backed plan to fund the government through December 3 but not raise the debt ceiling.

If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling, the U.S. government could default in mid-October. Experts warn that could cause serious economic consequences, including a potential recession.

“It could have catastrophic impacts, quite frankly,” said Laura Wilson, associate professor of political science at the University of Indianapolis.

“People don’t oftentimes like to think about the debt ceiling, but this is a major issue that Congress addresses and something that we really need to be cognizant of as voters and constituents,” she added.

If the government shuts down, federal workers would receive backpay once the government reopens. 

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