NewsTracker Tax and Budget

Back to Work for Furloughed State Employees

More than 500 state workers have returned to work after President Obama and the U.S. Congress reached an agreement to end the partial federal shutdown.

Jeff Hentschel, spokesman for the Tennessee Department of Labor, said all furloughed workers are back on the job, but the state is still waiting for word about back pay.

“We are waiting for guidance from the (U.S. Department of Labor) whether these employees will get back pay,” Hentschel said.

The Department of Labor gets 79 percent of its funding from the federal government and the partial federal shutdown delayed federal monies from funding the department.

In all the department sent home 369 employees Monday in addition to the 27 Labor Market Information employees who were furloughed Oct. 9.

Workers in the Department of Human Services and Department of the Military reported to work Friday. DHS idled 112 from Disability Determination Services. DOM furloughed 103.

The state was forced to furlough some federally funded state workers during the shutdown as its surpluses ran dry.

Other departments, like the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, received grant funds and reimbursements in time to continue business as usual.

The TBI, which receives millions in federal grants, was able to meet the U.S. Office of Justice Program’s Oct. 4 deadline so the state’s law enforcement agency remained fully funded.

The federal government partially shutdown Oct. 1 after the U.S. Congress and the president failed to agree on an appropriations bill for fiscal year 2014 or a continuing resolution in the interim.

The impasse resulted in about 800,000 federal employees being furloughed and about 1.3 million were asked to work without pay. It also resulted in a short vacation for several hundred state workers in Tennessee, who were completely or partly funded by the federal government.

Congress passed a continuing resolution on the night of Oct. 16 to reopen the federal government. The resolution will fund the federal government through the middle of January.

NewsTracker Tax and Budget

Sullivan County Employees’ Bonuses Could Force Cutbacks

In government worker circles, talk of pay freezes and furloughs has been common in recent years. But in Sullivan County, local workers could get $500 bonuses at the end of the year, which if extended to all workers would cost county taxpayers $400,000. The Bristol Herald Courier has the news:

In addition to letting the department heads decide whether to pay the bonus, (Commissioner John Crawford) said, they could also set the size of their bonuses – so long as it was under $500 a person – and decide if they wanted to pay it to part-time and full-time employees. The county currently has 724 full-time employees and 127 part-time employees.

Most of the department heads at Monday’s meeting said they supported the bonuses because they appreciated the work their employees have been doing. Sheriff Wayne Anderson, who supervises about 260 employees, said he’d pay the bonuses even if it meant he’d have to cut back on other expenses in this year’s budget – including the money set aside to buy new patrol cars.