Budget Office Examines Cost Of Partial Government Shutdown

You might think shutting down the government would save money, but you'd be wrong. According to the White House budget office, during the 16-day partial shutdown, federal employees were paid roughly $2 billion not to work.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Twitter may be worth billions of dollars. Let's talk about another number - $2 billion. That is how much federal employees were paid not to work during the government shutdown. It's just one of the eye-popping numbers in a new report about the shutdown from the White House Budget Office.

Here's NPR's Tamara Keith.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: The government was at least partially shut down for 16 days in October - national parks shuttered; non-essential government employees told to stay home. And while intuitively you might think shutting the government down would cut costs, in fact, it was very expensive.

The new report from the Office of Management and Budget is a first look at some of the costs.Added up, OMB director Sylvia Matthews Burwell says there were 6.6 million furlough days. Some employees were off the job for the entire shutdown; others were allowed to return to work temporarily.

SYLVIA MATTHEWS BURWELL: And at its peak, the number was about 850,000 people. And that would be about 40 percent of the entire civilian workforce.

KEITH: The work wasn't getting done, but as part of the deal to end the shutdown, all of these people were given back pay.

BURWELL: What that translates to is roughly $2 billion, in terms of the cost of lost productivity.

KEITH: Two hundred applications for oil-drilling permits sat around. The start of the Alaskan crab fishing season was delayed. Seven hundred small business administration loans weren't processed. The National Parks Service estimates it lost $7 million in revenue because entrance fees weren't collected. And it estimates neighboring businesses and communities lost an additional 500 million because tourists stayed away.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner says, quote, "We would have preferred to avoid the shutdown and the economic impact." But he also suggests the administration may be using the report to distract from the health care law's troubled rollout.

Tamara Keith, NPR News, the Capitol.

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