The federal government isn’t going to make Washington-area employees come in to work on Presidents Day, Feb. 15, to make up for the snow days this week. Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry refuted that rumor in an online chat this morning hosted by the Washington Post.
Berry also said there will be no furloughs to cover the cost of the government shutdown.
The government has closed all four days so far this week, as well as a half day on Feb. 5. Berry said he is going to consult with the National Weather Service and local government officials at 6 p.m. today to decide if he’s going to make it a straight flush and close the government for the fifth day this week. But even if the government opens tomorrow, Berry confirmed that OPM will allow employees to take unscheduled leave if their neighborhoods are still snowed in.
Berry in December said that each snow day costs the government $102 million in lost productivity — which would currently place the government’s losses in the $450 million range — but he’s now backing away from that estimation. The $102 million figure was a straightforward calculation of the daily payroll of the region’s 270,000 employees, Berry said, but it doesn’t take into account emergency workers who aren’t allowed to take a snow day, essential workers or teleworkers. “The number that is used currently is woefully out of date,” Berry said. “When we are clear of the storm, we will be updating this calculation and will certainly put that on our Web site for both comments and distribution.”
Berry also said he wants to keep the government running as much as possible when deciding whether he will close the government, but said safety of federal employees and the public is the biggest factor in his decision.
OPM’s Web site has also been barraged all week — receiving as many as two million hits per hour — by federal employees trying to find out if they will have work the next day. The site crashed several times earlier in the week, but Berry said OPM switched to a cloud computing system to handle the load and hasn’t crashed since.