The cost of furloughing 800,000 federal employees is getting expensive. If Congress goes through with its plan, as expected, to give back pay to those on unscheduled vacations, it will cost taxpayers over $172 million a day, according to federal personnel figures.
That means the first week off will cost $1,207,184,615.38, based on the average salary of federal workers.
Here's how it breaks down. The Office of Personnel Management pegs the “average” salary of federal workers at $78,467. That's about $1,509 a week. There were about 800,000 furloughed workers last week before the Pentagon returned some back to their jobs this week.
The federal figures also show that there are 1,850,311 nonseasonal, full-time federal workers, meaning that a majority of the government has remained on the job. With the Pentagon returning roughly 350,000 employees back to their job, that leaves about 400,000 on furlough.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers have said that workers shouldn't be punished for the government shutdown. The House unanimously passed a bill to provide back pay. The Senate hasn't acted, but is expected to pass a similar bill when the government shutdown ends.
No matter how the final pay back unfolds, federal workers won't likely receive the check until after the government shutdown ends, putting many in hardship, according to federal worker union officials. A Virginia state lawmaker has proposed that furloughed workers be avoid bills until after they receive back pay.
It's still a better deal than millions in the private sector experienced during the recession. In addition to firing workers, several major firms ordered employees to take unpaid vacations, eliminated 401k contributions and made across-the-board salary cuts.Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.