USDA Faced With Dusty Carpets, Empty Eateries as Shutdown Cuts Deep

05:26PM Jan 16, 2019
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(Bloomberg) -- Don’t give groceries to your boss. Make sure that discount applies to all federal workers. Need to email a colleague? Forget it.

These are some of the guidelines for U.S. Department of Agriculture workers wondering how to behave during a government shutdown. Before heading to the White House for the signing of a bill guaranteeing back pay for workers, Secretary Sonny Perdue posted a message on Twitter that pointed furloughed employees to a cache of shutdown information.

While the shutdown is keeping traders in the dark by halting USDA crop reports, it also means the agency’s offices are running close to the bone. Its website says childcare services at some buildings, internal mailing and cafeterias are all stymied. Vacuuming is discontinued outside of specific requests. Trash is still picked up in certain buildings three days per week, though it must be placed in hallways for pickup. Fitness centers are closed.

Workers hoping to help struggling colleagues should proceed with caution. According to an ethics guide, federal employees can give gifts such as groceries so long as the recipient is not their supervisor and doesn’t make more money than them. Continuing to work using a personal email account or social media profile is also prohibited.

Still, some USDA employees will be going back to work in a bid to alleviate a backlog of red tape. The agency is recalling about 2,500 Farm Service Agency employees to perform certain limited services for farmers and ranchers on Jan. 17, Jan. 18 and Jan. 22.

The limited reopening will be cold comfort to those looking to apply for trade-war aid under the Market Facilitation Program. New applications won’t be accepted during this period. Still, the USDA is extending the aid application deadline equal to the number of business days its offices end up being closed once the shutdown ends.


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