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Furlough day gives some an unwanted 'holiday'

By Donna Cassata

Associated Press

Published: Friday, May 24 2013 9:25 p.m. MDT

FILE - This March 22, 2013 file photo shows the exterior of the Internal Revenue Service building in Washington. No one answered the phone at the IRS hotline for tax help. Forget about advice on avoiding foreclosures at one of the Housing and Urban Development offices nationwide. Roughly five percent of the federal workforce _ 115,000 people at six government agencies _ got an unpaid day off on Friday due to the automatic cuts to the government budget. The furloughs forced some agencies such as the IRS and HUD to drastically scale back operations. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Associated Press

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WASHINGTON — No one answered the tax-help hotline at the IRS on Friday. And you could forget about getting advice on avoiding foreclosures at the 80 Housing and Urban Development field offices nationwide.

It was "furlough Friday." Roughly 5 percent of the federal workforce — 115,000 people at six major agencies — were told not to show up as the government dealt with sequester spending cuts.

The good news for many federal workers: a four-day Memorial Day weekend. The bad news: no pay for the day.

The across-the-board budget reductions, the result of Washington's failure to work out a long-term, deficit-cutting plan in November 2011, essentially shut down some government agencies, though it had a negligible impact on others.

The IRS, embroiled in a scandal over agents targeting tea party groups, got a day of quiet. Its offices were closed with more than 90,000 employees furloughed, on one of five days the agency plans to shut down this year to save money.

HUD furloughed nearly its entire staff of more than 8,400 employees, closed its headquarters in Washington and shut down about 80 field offices.

At the Labor Department, spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander said 437 employees out of about 16,500 were furloughed. She said the layoffs were negotiated between supervisors and employees to have the least possible impact on the agency's operations.

Furloughs also hit the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Management and Budget and the Interior Department.

Congress did step in last month to undo furloughs for air traffic controllers after a week of coast-to-coast flight delays, and lawmakers have found money for meat inspectors.

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