DES MOINES, Iowa — The White House says tax refunds will still go out during the government shutdown.
The announcement is a reversal of a long-standing policy to withhold refunds during shutdowns. While that is welcome news for taxpayers, employees at the federal court could be getting asked to work without pay. The judiciary has two weeks left of funding.
A former U.S. Attorney says federal court employees could be furloughed, and that could impact the 131 federal court hearings scheduled from January 22 to the January 31 and after.
“I hope that both sides can figure it out and we can come to some sort of agreement,” Des Moines resident Tim Army said.
Until then, the government shutdown is causing the federal courts to run on limited funds.
Nick Klinefeldt, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District in Iowa, has gone through a government shutdown before.
“It was scary. It was affecting morale,” Klinefeldt said.
The judiciary says it has enough reserve money to last until January 18.
“The courts are going to have to furlough people. They are going to have to send staff home. They probably already are ramping up and preparing for the shutdown,” Klinefeldt said.
“That’s their livelihood. It’s really unfortunate. That is money people rely on,” Des Moines resident Brooke Van Soelen said.
According to the Labor Department, in Iowa there are nearly 18,000 federal employees including postal workers, military and those who work for the federal court.
“We are basically shutting down one branch of the government,” Klinefeldt said.
Fewer people working could slow the courts down.
“[It] affects the judge’s ability to conduct trials and resolve disputes. [It affects] anything from employment dispute, business’s disputes and social security disputes,” Klinefeldt said.
In order to continue resolving those disputes, Klinefeldt says essential employees could be asked to work without pay.
“That’s a lot of uncertainty. It’s the president asking people to work without a paycheck even though you are working for the American public,” Klinefeldt said.
We reached out to the U.S. Clerk of Courts and the Department of Justice for the Southern District of Iowa for comment and have not heard back.