Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Government Shutdown: Sam Kass Is On Furlough

The First Lady's Let's Move! campaign goes on indefinite hiatus...
Washington, DC - Let's Move! Executive Director Sam Kass is among the hundreds of White House staffers who have been placed on furlough due to the government shutdown.  One of a handful of staffers who have three separate titles, Kass is also Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy, and Assistant Chef.  He still cooks weeknight evening meals for President Barack Obama and the First Family.

But Kass has now been deemed "non-essential" under Office of Management and Budget contingency plans for the lapse in government funding, and he will not be doing any policy making, nor will he be hovering over a hot stove at 1600 Penn until the government reopens, according to a White House source.  Along with the federal government, First Lady Michelle Obama's childhood obesity campaign is essentially shutdown, too.

White House staff had four hours on Tuesday morning to finish up business before beginning furlough.  As of this morning, Kass was still scheduled to deliver the keynote at the Washington Public Policy Conference on Wednesday at noon.  But he has now cancelled that appearance, conference organizers said in an email sent later in the day.   

Kass is not on furlough as part of the Executive Residence staff, which includes chefs:  He is now paid as part of the White House Office staff.  The paygrade change went into effect last March when Kass was formally named Executive Director for Mrs. Obama's Let's Move! campaign.

This summer, for the very first time since he went to work at 1600 Penn in 2009, Kass was listed on the White House's "2013 Annual Report to Congress on White House Staff," which covers the 460 White House Office employees, including Administration officials at the Domestic Policy Council and the National Economic Council.  Kass now makes $125,000 a year, according to the report (PDF).  Like everyone else on furlough, he is not currently receiving a paycheck.  Or cooking.

Kass' upgrade to Executive Director included a title change from Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives to his current title.  

Kass also went on a one-day furlough in late June, when other White House staffers were furloughed due to sequester-related budget cuts.  White House Staff newly on furlough will remain out of work until the embattled Congress can agree to fund the government.

For those wondering who will be cooking for the President and First Family, 15 staffers of the 90-member Executive Residence staff will remain on duty during the shutdown.  That will include at least two chefs, one for day and one for evening.  UPDATE, OCT. 5: Executive Chef Cris Comerford remains on duty during the shutdown.

As of noon today, and in some cases earlier, emails sent to White House staff who have been furloughed are now auto-returned to the sender with the message "Due to the lapse in appropriations, I am not in the office and am not available to answer your message.  If you require immediate attention, please contact XXXXX." 

Kass is also responsible for much of the tweeting on the @LetsMove Twitter account, but a tweet posted to the account at 12:53 PM today read "Due to Congress’s failure to pass legislation to fund the govt, this account will be inactive. Follow @WhiteHouse for updates. #Shutdown."   

A similar message appeared on Mrs. Obama's @FLOTUS Twitter account at 12:55 PM: "Due to Congress’s failure to pass legislation to fund the government, updates to this account will be limited. #Shutdown."

Unlike other government websites, such as the Department of Agriculture's, which is now dark, the LetsMove.gov website remains online.  The WhiteHouse.gov website is also live, but now carries this message:  "Due to Congress’s failure to pass legislation to fund the government, the information on this web site may not be up to date. Some submissions may not be processed, and we may not be able to respond to your inquiries," and advises users to check USA.gov.

*Shutdown contingency plans for all federal agencies are posted on this webpage at WhiteHouse.gov.  The shutdown documents for all agencies in the USDA are posted here. 

*Photo by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama. Updated.