Some federal workers to get “bonus” for not working during the shutdown?

posted at 12:41 pm on October 23, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

It’s real, but it’s not a windfall — and it may be unavoidable. The Washington Post points out one bizarre consequence of the federal shutdown — some federal workers will end up with extra cash because of it.  The “bonus” isn’t high, and it’s not widespread, but some of those who applied for jobless benefits won’t be forced to return the money after getting their back pay.  Oregon is among the states that have no clawback provisions for this scenario:

Thousands of federal employees across the country received jobless benefits during the government shutdown this month. Now that they’re getting back pay, many are being told to give it back. But at least some won’t have to.

In Oregon, fewer than 1,500 furloughed federal employees received unemployment insurance benefits during the 16-day government shutdown. That money is theirs to keep if they want, even if they collect back pay from the federal government, the state’s Employment Department wrote on its Web site.

“Oregon law does not permit UI benefits to be recovered in these circumstances,” the statement reads. “Oregon law provides that if a worker is entitled to receive UI benefits and then receives back pay, the worker is still entitled to the UI benefits. This applies to all workers regardless of whether they worked for the government.”

Oregon is a standout among states that are now weighing in on the issue. Several are in the process of notifying furloughed workers who got benefits that they need to repay the money. Idaho, for example, plans to send letters out Wednesday.

Four other states intend to get the money back, but only Washington has a plan to take it back involuntarily.  They want federal agencies to impound part of the workers’ paychecks to reimburse the state for the payments, but that’s not yet settled.

Otherwise, the states can do little except to send letters demanding repayment, at least for now, and even that may take a while.  States have to identify the workers and the money owed, the total of which varies widely from state to state.  Washington is out $500,000, while Illinois spent $230,000, and Virginia only $65,000.  Those figures might have some states balking at enforcement and collections, as the cost (especially in the public sector) might exceed the amounts they hope to recover.

Can Congress avoid this in a future shutdown? It’s difficult to see how.  Most federal workers need some income to pay their bills, and the uncertain nature of shutdowns and their length means that applying for jobless benefits for an indefinite furlough is a necessity, just in case it goes far longer than anyone anticipates.  The solution in this case may need to come from the states, but it would be moot if Congress could get back to responsible normal-order budgeting that produced balanced and rational spending plans.


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Not bonuses. Payoffs. Criminals.

HomeoftheBrave on October 23, 2013 at 12:43 PM

As always. The Fed wastes hard-earned money to give to leeches and democrats, but I repeat myself.

Wino on October 23, 2013 at 12:43 PM

Work harder, fools.

Schadenfreude on October 23, 2013 at 12:45 PM

“They called me chimpey because they thought I was dumb” — GWB

Schadenfreude on October 23, 2013 at 12:46 PM

I bet they weren’t even out for a pay period.

Cindy Munford on October 23, 2013 at 12:48 PM

Can Congress avoid this in a future shutdown? It’s difficult to see how.

What’s so difficult about it?

People who don’t work shouldn’t be paid. This idea of paying feral government leeches for days not worked is insane and, to put it succinctly, “fraud” – both on the part of those doling out taxpayers’ money to people not working and on the part of the workers not working and then taking the money for not working.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on October 23, 2013 at 12:49 PM

Grifters will be grifters. Shocking, I know.

slickwillie2001 on October 23, 2013 at 12:51 PM

Meanwhile the Ranger pRicks over at the NPS prolly drew overtime.

antipc on October 23, 2013 at 12:52 PM

Leave it to Oregon….

portlandon on October 23, 2013 at 12:52 PM

Washington is out $500,000, while Illinois spent $230,000, and Virginia only $65,000.

Given the high number of federal workers in Northern VA and the tidewater region, I’ve got to wonder why Washington and Illinois’s tabs are so much higher.

Happy Nomad on October 23, 2013 at 1:01 PM

I bet they weren’t even out for a pay period.

Cindy Munford on October 23, 2013 at 12:48 PM

We were out for eleven business days and one holiday. The normal pay period is ten days. However, the twelve days fell over two pay periods, resulting in a half paycheck and mitigating some of the pain.

I didn’t have to apply for unemployment, but if I had I would return it.

mrsknightley on October 23, 2013 at 1:04 PM

Good gosh. How about a little bit of perspective, folks. This article correctly pointed out that the potential length of the shutdown was very uncertain. How many of you could see your income just end without taking steps to obtain public assistance? Unfortunately, most people truly do live paycheck to paycheck. They needed to apply for unemployment.

That having been said I’d like to think that if I were in this position I would return the money whether legally required to or not. But I’m not in this position. I was “essential” for the entire time. So I worked. And I was glad that I did because I had work to do. Now that didn’t mean that I got paid. I received basically 1/2 of a paycheck recently. But I’m lucky enough to have the financial wherewithal go for a while without pay.

Please stop reflexively beating up on federal employees. Lots of us are non-political in our jobs. I’m a professional person and I could make at least twice what I make in the private arena. I’m not overpaid, but I love my job and I think I contribute. I work with a group of dedicated professionals. Are there abuses? Sure. But calling all federal employees freeloaders is somewhat akin to calling all tea party members racists. It just isn’t true.

35tww on October 23, 2013 at 1:05 PM

35tww on October 23, 2013 at 1:05 PM

*fistbump*

mrsknightley on October 23, 2013 at 1:08 PM

…I’m a professional person and I could make at least twice what I make in the private arena. I’m not overpaid, but I love my job and I think I contribute…
35tww on October 23, 2013 at 1:05 PM

A song sung for decades…meanwhile, no private enterprise matches retirement, pension, health plans, benefits, vacations, holidays…

right2bright on October 23, 2013 at 1:10 PM

Given the high number of federal workers in Northern VA and the tidewater region, I’ve got to wonder why Washington and Illinois’s tabs are so much higher.

Happy Nomad on October 23, 2013 at 1:01 PM

It’s obvious. Those that work in or near DC were considered much “more essential” than those out in the Heartland. Unless, of course, the job entailed keeping trespassers off of public government lands.

Yoop on October 23, 2013 at 1:13 PM

That having been said I’d like to think that if I were in this position I would return the money whether legally required to or not.

35tww on October 23, 2013 at 1:05 PM

Sorry but those that don’t return that money are thieves in my opinion and worthy of our scorn.

I don’t think anyone is faulting them for getting the money to help them pay bills. People are attacking those employees who did NOT return the money once they received their back pay.

nextgen_repub on October 23, 2013 at 1:13 PM

Yeah, goodie!

Schadenfreude on October 23, 2013 at 1:14 PM

35tww on October 23, 2013 at 1:05 PM

why would people who have a job qualify for UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE??? sounds kinda fraudulent to me. the feds should not reimburse those states and those states should take action against the filer.s

chasdal on October 23, 2013 at 1:15 PM

That having been said I’d like to think that if I were in this position I would return the money whether legally required to or not. But I’m not in this position. I was “essential” for the entire time. So I worked.

35tww on October 23, 2013 at 1:05 PM

That was what happened with my mother. She was considered “essential”, so she was expected to work without pay for the length of the shutdown, with the promise that she might get back pay when the shutdown ended. Any sick days, holidays or other time off would automatically make her “non-essential” and then buh-bye.

Sockpuppet Politic on October 23, 2013 at 1:15 PM

Please stop reflexively beating up on federal employees.

The feral government is a monster that is totally out of control. Most feral government employees are leeching sacks of sh!t who couldn’t get a job anywhere else, since private industry tends to require competence.

Lots of us are non-political in our jobs.

“Lots” doesn’t carry much meaning in a monstrosity with millions and millions of workers, most of whom are total dog sh!t and as political as it gets.

I’m a professional person and I could make at least twice what I make in the private arena.

Then move to the private sector. You don’t do anyone any favors working for the feral government.

I’m not overpaid, but I love my job and I think I contribute.

Contribute to what?

But calling all federal employees freeloaders is somewhat akin to calling all tea party members racists.

35tww on October 23, 2013 at 1:05 PM

That’s retarded. Most feral government employees are freeloaders and inept boobs who shouldn’t be in charge of anything, let alone governmental power to f@#k up the lives of private individuals. The Tea Party has nothing racisty raaacist about it, though the race-obsessed dems and their inept America-hating Indonesian love to project onto others. To even try to draw this comparison shows what a moron you are.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on October 23, 2013 at 1:16 PM

People who don’t work shouldn’t be paid. This idea of paying feral government leeches for days not worked is insane and, to put it succinctly, “fraud” – both on the part of those doling out taxpayers’ money to people not working and on the part of the workers not working and then taking the money for not working.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on October 23, 2013 at 12:49 PM

You do realize that they really didn’t have a choice to work or not, right? And Congress was the one that restored pay (like they always have). So, to call the individual federal worker guilty of fraud is just wrong.

Where I will agree with you is this. A neighbor works for the EPA and was sorely ticked off that the shutdown was over. He had been hoping for another couple days. That kind of attitude really ticked me off after he had been off the job for 11 work days. Made me want to tell him that any agency where 98% of the staff isn’t excepted really needs to be scrapped.

Happy Nomad on October 23, 2013 at 1:17 PM

You do realize that they really didn’t have a choice to work or not, right?

Which is why they collected unemployment.

And Congress was the one that restored pay (like they always have). So, to call the individual federal worker guilty of fraud is just wrong.

Happy Nomad on October 23, 2013 at 1:17 PM

Receiving stolen goods is still illegal – though I’m not making a legal case of fraud against the workers who collected unemployment and then took back pay, too … just a moral one.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on October 23, 2013 at 1:20 PM

A song sung for decades…meanwhile, no private enterprise matches retirement, pension, health plans, benefits, vacations, holidays…

Talk about a song sung for decades!! I’m under FERS. When I retire, I’ll get a retirement of about 35% of my current pay, Social Security, and my 401(k). That’s it. And that’s if I work to age 70.

Federal retirement under FERS is nowhere near as rich as it was under CRSC or as it is under many state and local governmental retirement plans.

35tww on October 23, 2013 at 1:22 PM

Damn, I want government job.

After that 60 Minutes segment last weekend about how all the members of Congress are allowed to personally profit from certain PAC funds for their campaigns, I want to have them all drawn and quartered. They are all corrupt, both Democrats and Republicans. I am sick of all of them.

SC.Charlie on October 23, 2013 at 1:22 PM

We can add the bonanza that federal workers have enjoyed under this administration to the $3.7 TRILLION PAID OUT IN WELFARE OVER THE LAST FIVE YEARS

The American tax payer has been harnessed as slave labor. Obama shovels tax payer funds out of the door faster than any other president in the history of this nation. “Redistribution of wealth” and “the fundamental transformation of the nation” sees funding for “the poor” on welfare make them middle class ( $44,000 per year worth of cash and benefits) while seeing that a vast swath of the middle class has lost their employment or seen their hours cut to part time, lost benefits, seen their income drop, their taxes rise, and been forced into becoming the working poor.

thatsafactjack on October 23, 2013 at 1:23 PM

It’s obvious. Those that work in or near DC were considered much “more essential” than those out in the Heartland. Unless, of course, the job entailed keeping trespassers off of public government lands.

Yoop on October 23, 2013 at 1:13 PM

Hey, the NPS Stasi was essential. Some 90-year-old veteran might have taken advantage of the shutdown to litter at the WWII Memorial or something. /

I suspect part of the reason is that WA and IL, being deep blue states, have an easier process to draw unemployment.

Happy Nomad on October 23, 2013 at 1:25 PM

Federal retirement under FERS is nowhere near as rich as it was under CRSC or as it is under many state and local governmental retirement plans.

35tww on October 23, 2013 at 1:22 PM

Don’t forget all those union pension plans. Even the ones for public sector employees.

Happy Nomad on October 23, 2013 at 1:28 PM

That’s retarded. Most feral government employees are freeloaders and inept boobs who shouldn’t be in charge of anything, let alone governmental power to f@#k up the lives of private individuals.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on October 23, 2013 at 1:16 PM

That describes the people in charge very well, but the rank-and-file are often just regular people who the management uses as decoys for popular anger.

In fact, it seems like incompetence is almost a requirement for advancing in federal jobs…

Don’t forget all those union pension plans. Even the ones for public sector employees.

Happy Nomad on October 23, 2013 at 1:28 PM

If they belong to a union. Fortunately, many still don’t and don’t want to. The ones that do…frankly, it’s ridiculous. Public-sector unions should not be allowed to exist.

Sockpuppet Politic on October 23, 2013 at 1:33 PM

I bet they weren’t even out for a pay period.

Cindy Munford on October 23, 2013 at 12:48 PM

Yes they were. They took a hit on two different pay checks. At least the DOD and DOJ did.

Johnnyreb on October 23, 2013 at 1:35 PM

meanwhile, no private enterprise matches retirement, pension, health plans, benefits, vacations, holidays…

right2bright on October 23, 2013 at 1:10 PM

You put retirement and pension in same sentence there, Why? They are the same thing. I suggest you look up FERS and then come back and we will talk. And what is a “benefit”? You already listed vacations, holidays and health plans, is there some hidden secret benefit that Federal employees get?

Johnnyreb on October 23, 2013 at 1:39 PM

Yes they were. They took a hit on two different pay checks. At least the DOD and DOJ did.

Not quite. As I said upthread, we got a half paycheck the first time. The one covering the rest of the shutdown hasn’t even come due yet, and it will have regular funds plus back pay.

mrsknightley on October 23, 2013 at 1:40 PM

The thugs have no shame.

obama killed all decency and respect in America.

Schadenfreude on October 23, 2013 at 1:44 PM

get back to responsible normal-order budgeting that produced balanced and rational spending plans

BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA … … HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
Sorry, Ed, but please point to a time when we had “balanced” and “rational” budget plans.

GWB on October 23, 2013 at 1:48 PM

When I retire, I’ll get a retirement of about 35% of my current pay, Social Security, and my 401(k). That’s it. And that’s if I work to age 70.

35tww on October 23, 2013 at 1:22 PM

While the rest of us will get Social Security (maybe) and our 401ks (maybe). We don’t get that 35% of our pay. Can you start to see where folks feel a little abused?

GWB on October 23, 2013 at 1:51 PM

GWB on October 23, 2013 at 1:51 PM

He may have meant to say that the 401K plus SS payments would equal 35% of his current income, not that they’d be in addition to it. I’m under FERS too and we don’t get pension payments like CSRS employees do – it’s just whatever is in our 401K.

mrsknightley on October 23, 2013 at 2:00 PM

I was furloughed only for three days – and they are paying me back full pay – didn’t even ask me to take leave.

I was fine with either no pay – or making me take personal leave on those days … but no … they just put me down for 8 hours worked all three days.

HondaV65 on October 23, 2013 at 2:01 PM

When I retire, I’ll get a retirement of about 35% of my current pay, Social Security, and my 401(k). That’s it. And that’s if I work to age 70.

35tww on October 23, 2013 at 1:22 PM
While the rest of us will get Social Security (maybe) and our 401ks (maybe). We don’t get that 35% of our pay. Can you start to see where folks feel a little abused?

Did you have money deducted from your paycheck every two weeks to pay for the retirement? Do understand that the retirement is earned for every year you’re on the job? If you’ve been with the government 10 years, your retirement % (if any) will be very low. I estimated 35% (which might be a little low) based on my over 30 years of service at age 70.

I, like you, worry about Social Security, about which I can do nothing, and my 401(k), over which I at least have some control.

35tww on October 23, 2013 at 2:04 PM

HondaV65 on October 23, 2013 at 2:01 PM

I’m surprised no one is reporting on the fact that employees who were furloughed also get their leave back. Not just the usual biweekly leave accrual, but whatever leave they were scheduled to use during the shutdown will be credited back to them.

mrsknightley on October 23, 2013 at 2:06 PM

mrsknightley on October 23, 2013 at 2:00 PM

Understood.

Did you have money deducted from your paycheck every two weeks to pay for the retirement?

35tww on October 23, 2013 at 2:04 PM

And what happened to that money? Was it invested? If so, it was similar to a 401k. Though I wonder why you should get that option (to contribute to that program as well as a 401k) when most folks don’t.

Let me say that I don’t begrudge anyone maximizing their contributions to their retirement in whatever legal fashion they can. I do begrudge the fact that the law allows for different folks to be treated differently because they are part of the technocratic class – whether they are bureaucrats or politicians.

GWB on October 23, 2013 at 2:15 PM

Are we sure of our terms here? The government uses the TSP. 35tww may or may not have a separate 401K.

mrsknightley on October 23, 2013 at 2:28 PM

When I retire, I’ll get a retirement of about 35% of my current pay, Social Security, and my 401(k). That’s it. And that’s if I work to age 70.
35tww on October 23, 2013 at 1:22 PM

While the rest of us will get Social Security (maybe) and our 401ks (maybe). We don’t get that 35% of our pay. Can you start to see where folks feel a little abused?

GWB on October 23, 2013 at 1:51 PM

Did you have money deducted from your paycheck every two weeks to pay for the retirement? Do understand that the retirement is earned for every year you’re on the job? If you’ve been with the government 10 years, your retirement % (if any) will be very low. I estimated 35% (which might be a little low) based on my over 30 years of service at age 70.

I, like you, worry about Social Security, about which I can do nothing, and my 401(k), over which I at least have some control.

35tww on October 23, 2013 at 2:04 PM

401k and SS – that’s it for most of us.
Yes I’ve had 10% of my pre-tax pay deducted for many years – for my 401k/IRA – which for most companies is your only option for retirement on top of SS. And I’ve had 6% of my pre-tax pay deducted for SS for many years – which I would much rather have going to my 401k/IRA funds. But unless someone works for a company that has a company funded pension plan – that’s all we get.

Most of us will NEVER get anything like the 35% to 50% (or more) of base pay that most government employees get at retirement – so I’m tired of hearing government workers whining about how tough retirement is going to be.

dentarthurdent on October 23, 2013 at 2:30 PM

…all I can do…is *spit*

KOOLAID2 on October 23, 2013 at 2:34 PM

Meanwhile the Ranger pRicks over at the NPS prolly drew overtime.

antipc on October 23, 2013 at 12:52 P

M
I’ll bet the SS Rangers installing and manning the barrycades get big bonuses for keeping all those dirty peons away from the public lands….

dentarthurdent on October 23, 2013 at 2:35 PM

Are we sure of our terms here? The government uses the TSP. 35tww may or may not have a separate 401K.

mrsknightley on October 23, 2013 at 2:28 PM

No, I’m not sure of the terms. That’s one of the points: why so many different “plans” for government workers? (I know one reason is that many departments and branches had their own plans before about 1980, and some folks are still in govt who held those old plans, forcing reconciliation that doesn’t always work well.)

GWB on October 23, 2013 at 2:43 PM

Oh, remember all the weeping and moaning and gnashing of teeth that went on, here on these very pages, about these poor people who were furloughed?

What was the word that was used to describe people annoyed by the prospect of these non-essential folks getting what would assuredly be – and was – additional paid vacation? And now, for some, it was even more than additional paid vacation.

Well, tens of millions of un/underemployed Americans aren’t getting any paid vacation, much less back-pay/extra paid vacation, certainly aren’t getting a little gravy on top via unearned unemployment pay, and in fact, would like to simply have a f*cking job – and many of them would, but for the increasingly worthless government for which these ‘non-essential’ employees work.

Midas on October 23, 2013 at 3:09 PM

Are we sure of our terms here? The government uses the TSP. 35tww may or may not have a separate 401K.

mrsknightley on October 23, 2013 at 2:28 PM

No, I’m not sure of the terms. That’s one of the points: why so many different “plans” for government workers? (I know one reason is that many departments and branches had their own plans before about 1980, and some folks are still in govt who held those old plans, forcing reconciliation that doesn’t always work well.)

GWB on October 23, 2013 at 2:43 PM

When I say “401(k)” I mean “TSP.” There is no separate 401(k) available for federal employees. (I do also have an old 401(k) from my days in private life that I rolled into an IRA.)

The “pension” is mandatory. Our contribution is after tax dollars. We have no control over the money. None. I don’t even know if I could get the contribution back if I left the government.

So there aren’t a lot of choices.

35tww on October 23, 2013 at 3:12 PM

Another in the long list of reasons why forcing the shutdown was just a stupid idea.

Adjoran on October 23, 2013 at 3:17 PM

While the rest of us will get Social Security (maybe) and our 401ks (maybe). We don’t get that 35% of our pay. Can you start to see where folks feel a little abused?

Did you have money deducted from your paycheck every two weeks to pay for the retirement? Do understand that the retirement is earned for every year you’re on the job? If you’ve been with the government 10 years, your retirement % (if any) will be very low. I estimated 35% (which might be a little low) based on my over 30 years of service at age 70.

I, like you, worry about Social Security, about which I can do nothing, and my 401(k), over which I at least have some control.

35tww on October 23, 2013 at 2:04 PM

Not sure what the point is here.

We who are not working for the government have the same worries about SS and our 401k – government employees have an *additional* pension/retirement funding source that we DO NOT have.

Yes, my contributions to my 401k come out of my check, as do yours (I presume). Your employer, however, if you were in the private sector (almost universally), would NOT be giving you 10, 20, 35, or any other percent of your earnings when you retire. They would thank you for your service, have a lunch, perhaps, or cake, and you’d be on your own – with ONLY your SS and 401k (in this scenario) to live on.

You get what we get – but more, see?

Midas on October 23, 2013 at 3:18 PM

Maybe I misunderstood you; your ‘pension’ is *only* money that you are contributing, not something that the government is going to give you based on years of service? It’s just a savings account? You pay in, they give it back when you retire?

Or will you get back more than what you put in?

Midas on October 23, 2013 at 3:20 PM

Maybe I misunderstood you; your ‘pension’ is *only* money that you are contributing, not something that the government is going to give you based on years of service? It’s just a savings account? You pay in, they give it back when you retire?

Or will you get back more than what you put in?

Midas on October 23, 2013 at 3:20 PM

Ok. Let me try to resolve this. I never intended to say that federal retirement wasn’t somewhat better than most private retirement better. But most people think about federal retirement under the old CRSC system when they talk about the “fat” federal retirement. Those folks weren’t even under Social Security. I joined the government in 1992 in my late 30s. My FERS retirement and Social Security, if I retire right now at age 60, would be less than 50% of my salary. I would have to make up the difference with 401(k) (TPS), my IRA from private life, and other savings.

35tww on October 23, 2013 at 3:45 PM

35tww on October 23, 2013 at 3:45 PM

And that is one reason why it is so easy to demonize govt workers – that level of confusion when it comes to govt “pensions”.

(Of course, the other reason is that a lot of them *are* leeches on the American taxpayer.)

GWB on October 23, 2013 at 4:21 PM

My FERS retirement and Social Security, if I retire right now at age 60, would be less than 50% of my salary. I would have to make up the difference with 401(k) (TPS), my IRA from private life, and other savings.

35tww on October 23, 2013 at 3:45 PM

And that is still significantly better than most non-government employees – not “somewhat better” – SIGNIFICANTLY better.

I’d be absolutely thrilled to get even 20% of my final base pay – in addition to SS and whatever I have in my 401K/IRAs.
Whatever trivial amount they may be taking out of your pay to cover that 50% (or whatever amount) pension is no comparison to what we need to do in the private sector – which you should know if you were ever non-government. And the company contribution to a 401K (typically 2 to 6%) is trivial compared to what the government gives you over your lifetime through that pension.

I’m hoping that by the time I retire, my 401k has enough in it so that along with SS, I will be able to live on an annual amount that equates to maybe 50% or more of my current income.
I’d be “livin’ large” if I had a 50% pension on top of SS and my 401K/IRAs.

dentarthurdent on October 23, 2013 at 4:43 PM

The mandatory FERS contribution is around one percent of my salary, coming from me. TSP contributions by federal employees are not mandatory, although the government does contribute one percent as an automatic benefit whether I contribute to it or not. Government contributions increase as a match up to a specified cap that’s somewhere between 3 and 5 percent.

We can’t get out of the mandatory FERS contribution, but TSP is a different thing.

mrsknightley on October 23, 2013 at 6:12 PM

One other thing – my dad was under CSRS (the old system) and he gets a nice monthly pension as well as Social Security. We FERS employees won’t get anything close to that.

mrsknightley on October 23, 2013 at 6:20 PM

This is reasonable. When you aren’t paid, you should be able to get unemployment benefits courtesy of the employer. That money is to partially replace the money you did not get.

If the law says you do not have to pay it back, you shouldn’t have to. Don’t like the law? Change it — but what you write will certainly be one of the more complex laws on the books mathematically.

unclesmrgol on November 5, 2013 at 10:09 PM