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Salt Lake County is getting ready in case the federal government shuts down again in January, cutting off grant money that funds hundreds of county jobs.

The County Council revised its human-resource policy Tuesday to allow employees to be placed on furlough "if the county experiences a reduction in state, federal or grant funding."

When that occurred Oct. 1-16 during the congressional stalemate over funding for the Affordable Care Act, Administrative Services Director Jill Carter discovered that county policies had no provision for furloughs — time off without pay.

That would have left the county with no option but to terminate employees whose jobs were underwritten by grants, she said. And neither the county nor employees wanted that.

The county escaped layoffs in October when the council made an emergency appropriation of $137,500 that kept the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program operating until a $2.5 million grant kicked in. That grant then funded WIC operations through the end of the shutdown.

Almost 350 county employees could be impacted by another shutdown, depending on how long it lasts, Carter said. The county health department would be hit hardest, followed by aging services. Smaller impacts would be felt in youth services, the district attorney's office and community resources and development.

County Human Resources Director Michael Ongigko said the policy authorizes the county mayor and council to collaborate on declaring a furlough. They will identify employees impacted by the loss of federal or state grants and set a length of time, up to four weeks, of the furlough.

After four weeks, he noted, affected employees will be subject to a "reduction in force."

While employees will not receive pay or time-served credits toward retirement during the furlough, they will accrue vacation and sick leave at regular rates, Ongigko said. They also will maintain health and dental-care coverage and life-insurance benefits.

The policy also makes provisions for handling the cases of employees, such as sheriff's deputies and parks-and-recreation personnel, who don't work standard weekday shifts.

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