Regulatory Agencies Plan for Federal Government Shutdown

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Agencies show how they would react to a funding hiatus.

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If the United States Congress fails to reach an agreement on the federal budget by midnight tonight, federal regulatory agencies’ activities will be curtailed significantly. The nature and funding structure of each agency will help explain which of its activities will cease and which will continue during a shutdown.

Many agencies have released plans detailing what they would do in the event of a shutdown. Under the legal framework for government shutdowns, agency activities essential to protecting human life and national security will remain in operation, as will activities that rely upon sources of funding, such as user fees, that do not depend on annual appropriations.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), for example, would continue to provide services necessary to protect life and safety, including inspecting meat, poultry and eggs. Activities funded by user fees, such as grain inspections, would also continue. However, the USDA would cease to produce market news reports and agricultural statistics, process farm loans, and allow visitors into staffed National Forests.

The Federal Aviation Administration would also continue providing services that protect life and safety, including air traffic control services, safety inspections, and accident investigations.

The Department of Homeland Security’s security screeners, law enforcement officers, and Coast Guard personnel will continue to work as normal.

Social service agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would continue many functions that involve the protection of human life, can draw upon carryover funds, or have sources of funding other than annual appropriations. For example, many Indian health clinics, other health centers, and the national Suicide Prevention Hotline would remain open. The Food and Drug Administration within HHS would continue to inspect imports.

The Department of Defense will continue to run military operations and provide essential health care in military facilities.  As military pensions do not require annual appropriations, they would be unaffected by any funding hiatus.

A few agencies, such as the Department of Energy and the US Patent Office, report having sufficient reserve funds to continue providing services as normal for at least a few days after an appropriations lapse.