Furloughed From Work? A Survival Guide for Federal Employees

If you’re losing your livelihood or significant income in the government shutdown, here’s what to do.

 WALL, SD - OCTOBER 01: A sign in the Pinnacles Entrance station of the Badlands National Park warns visitors the park is closed on October 1, 2013 near Wall, South Dakota. All national parks were closed today after congress failed to pass a temporary funding bill, forcing about 800,000 federal workers off the job. A bulletin issued by the Department of Interior states, 'Effective immediately upon a lapse in appropriations, the National Park Service will take all necessary steps to close and secure national park facilities and grounds in order to suspend all activities ... Day use visitors will be instructed to leave the park immediately...'
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"It's always very important to review and cross-reference all the guidelines laid out by someone's primary employer to be sure that there aren't any conflicts of interest or policies being broken," says Janette Marx, a senior vice president at Adecco Staffing.

Still, for some contractors who don't work for the government but depend on government clients, seeking work elsewhere might be a smart move. Silberberg, who spent years as a software contractor before starting Fatpacking.com, is considering looking for a part-time position as a software programmer, but he recognizes that it's easier said than done.

"It can be difficult to find a company that needs a software contractor for exactly three to six months, with my particular expertise, and that starts now," Silberberg says.

[See: 10 Ways to Start Earning Extra Money Now.]

Creditors may be kinder than you think. You won't know until you ask. During the government shutdown of 1995-1996 (it started Dec. 16 and ended Jan. 6), some banks and credit unions offered low-interest loans to furloughed federal workers. Yes, it may have been a self-interested, somewhat hollow gesture; the banks were, after all, offering a product they would make money on. But a gesture is a gesture, and with the government shutdown likely to remain the top story for some time to come, you may find that creditors are willing to work with you, at least a little.

Keep an eye out for furlough deals. During the 1995-1996 shutdown, Delta Air Lines slashed its prices by 50 percent and later 60 percent, and other airlines followed suit. Granted, with fewer passengers flying, the airlines were forced to do something to drum up business, but based on history and logic, retailers may begin offering government shutdown sales and special deals aimed at furloughed workers. Already, at the Daily Dish, a mom-and-pop restaurant in Silver Spring, Md., owners Zena Polin and Jerry Hollinger are promoting their "Government Shut Down Special."

Regulars will likely appreciate the sentiment, an idea Polin devised the morning of the shutdown. Any federal government worker who visits the restaurant during the shutdown is entitled – at least, as of the time of this writing – to a free cup of coffee.

Make that almost any federal government worker. As Polin and Hollinger make clear on their website: "Members of Congress pay double."