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Monday January 14, 2019

CPSC Furlough Rate Is on Top End, Public Citizen Report Shows

CPSC has the highest percentage of furloughed staffers among 11 consumer and worker protection agencies, according to a January 10 report from Public Citizen. About 96% of the agency's staff (roughly 530 of 550) are subject to the lockout. Notably, among the agencies, CPSC also starts with the fewest staffers even at full level.

 

CPSC's situation was further notable given that most of the other agencies with similarly high lockout rates do not have public safety roles. Only the Environmental Protection Agency was close at 94%, or 13,160 of 13,972 staffers, according to numbers used by Public Citizen (bit.ly/2D2tyb5).

 

The other health and safety agencies were the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (57% or 331 of 584 barred from working), Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (51% or 285 of 563), Food and Drug Administration (49% or 8,830 of 17,937), and Federal Aviation Administration (40% or 17,791 of 44,929).

 

Those four had the lowest shutout percentages among the 11, but Public Citizen pointed out, "The majority of federal workers at unfunded agencies whose responsibilities are considered essential are required to keep working without pay."

 

Public Citizen did suggest that the FDA number might be misleading related to safety oversight. Many of the 51% still working have salaries funded by user fees from pharmaceutical and medical device companies. However, FDA's "food inspection and regulatory enforcement efforts are funded through appropriations. This means that the FDA’s food safety efforts are especially impacted while 49 percent of the agency’s workers are furloughed in the shutdown."

 

At NHTSA, Public Citizen worried about stalled recalls and suspended defect investigations.

 

Public Citizen asserted, "The shutdown is already impeding vital consumer and worker protection priorities."

 

The report additionally warned:

"If the shutdown is allowed to persist, the cessation of these essential consumer and worker protections threatens significant public harms, as corporate violators go unpunished and food and product safety inspections are delayed and decreased. The importance of these functions makes even slight capacity reductions a serious cause for concern."

The non-safety agencies reviewed by Public Citizen and their lockout percentages were the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (95% furloughed), Securities and Exchange Commission (94%), Commodity Futures Trading Commission (88%), Federal Communications Commission (83%), and Federal Trade Commission (77%).