Federal Government Closes, Resentment Ensues
Shocking no one who lives in the area, OPM Director John Berry announced late yesterday afternoon that the Federal government would close its offices in the National Capitol Region today because the fallout from the weekend blizzard would make travel unsafe. Given that this is the area’s worst snowfall in recorded history and that a large portion of the workforce commutes from quite some distance — and that the Metro system is all but shut down, stranding even locals — it was a no brainer.
The consequences are, of course, significant and factored into the decision:
He convened a conference call with local and state government and transportation officials Sunday afternoon during which they determined a Monday morning commute would be too unsafe, officials said.
Despite Monday’s operating status, emergency personnel must still report as necessary.
The decision also means a day off for most of the region’s private sector, which uses the federal government’s operating status as a guide. Virtually all academic institutions in the region will also shutter on Monday.
Closing the federal government for one day costs taxpayers roughly $100 million in lost productivity, a price tag Berry said weighs heavily on his final decisions.
Jokes about lazy civil servants aside, I’m always dubious about claims of “lost productivity” since, for most office workers, the job’s still got to get done. Projects due on March 15 will still get turned in March 15, which means people will have to pick up the slack somehow for the missed day(s).
And, yes, people in other parts of the country manage to drive in similar or worse conditions. But their local governments are prepared to plow and sand/salt the roads in a way that the DC region isn’t. And people tend to have snow tires or snow chains and know how to drive in severe conditions.
There have already been a ridiculous number of accidents over the weekend, as people who either had to get somewhere or were too stupid to stay home got out and wrecked their cars. It would be idiotic to order people in to work today under the circumstances.
But none of this is enough to sway the detractors, who’ll bitch about how this shows America is getting soft or federal employees aren’t willing to put in an honest day’s work.