With funding deal still out of reach, it's time to prepare for potential partial government shutdown

In the absence of a broader funding package or a short-term stopgap bill, a set of departments are set to run out of money Jan. 19

ByBetsy Klein and Tami Luhby, CNN, CNNWire
Thursday, January 11, 2024
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Congress is quickly approaching the first of two deadlines to fund the government and avert a shutdown. And as negotiators and staff continue to hash out a funding plan, it's become clear to lawmakers that a short-term solution is needed to buy more time for the complex legislative appropriations process.

In the absence of a broader funding package or a short-term stopgap bill, known as a continuing resolution, a set of departments are set to run out of money next Friday, January 19.

A two-step plan passed last November extends funding until January 19 for parts of the federal government including military construction, and the departments of Veterans Affairs, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation and Energy. The rest of the government - anything not covered by the first step - is funded until February 2.

While Biden administration officials have expressed some confidence that Congress can ultimately reach an agreement to keep the government funded, some House Republicans are threatening a shutdown over border policy disagreements.

In the meantime, the behind-the-scenes work of preparing for a partial shutdown still has to happen. The federal government will soon participate in the mandatory but standard process of releasing shutdown guidance to agencies ahead of the partial deadline.

The standard procedure laying out the steps toward bringing non-essential government functions to a halt will get underway later this week for the entire federal government - not just those impacted by the January 19 deadline, an administration official told CNN.

"One week prior to the expiration of appropriations bills, regardless of whether the enactment of appropriations appears imminent, OMB will communicate with agency senior officials to remind agencies of their responsibilities to review and update orderly shutdown plans, and will share a draft communication template to notify employees of the status of appropriations," a document from the agency states.

That standard guidance will be circulated this Friday, seven days before a partial shutdown could occur.

Every department and agency has its own set of plans and procedures. Those plans include information on how many employees would get furloughed, which employees are essential and would work without pay, how long it would take to wind down operations in the hours before a shutdown, and which activities would come to a halt.

Here are some of the potential impacts, as detailed in the latest version of each impacted department's plans, which are subject to change:

Veterans Affairs

If the government shuts down late next week, the Department of Veterans Affairs is clear that veterans "will still be able to access their health care, benefits, and memorial services from VA," according to plans issued in September. The department, it says, has worked to minimize impacts to those it serves - and estimates that 96% of VA employees "would be fully funded or required to perform excepted functions during a shutdown."

Still, a number of the department's functions could stop. For instance, the Veterans Health Administration will stop its research functions after its funding runs out. The GI Bill Hotline, which veterans can call for support for education and training questions, will stop. And the Transition Assistance Program, a program that helps service members and their families transition from military to civilian life, would stop during a government shutdown. The National Cemetery Administration will stop installing permanent headstones or markers and will cease any grounds maintenance at VA national cemeteries during a shutdown. The department's Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs will be closed.


Much of the Department of Transportation and its related agencies' work will continue during a shutdown, including air traffic control, certain safety inspections and accident investigations across modes of transportation. But there could still be travel disruptions as air traffic controllers work without pay. A shutdown will also stall the training of new air traffic controllers who are not yet certified to work, halt any aviation or railway rulemaking and stop special investigations of hazardous materials through the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

Housing and Urban Development

Americans dependent on the Department of Housing and Urban Development to help pay their rent or mortgage could be deeply impacted in the event of a government shutdown. The department warned "nearly all of HUD's fair housing activities will cease during a lapse." A lapse in government funding runs the risk of running out of money for programs like public housing operating subsidies, housing choice voucher subsidies and multifamily assistance contracts, according to the department's guidance that was last updated in September. "


Two of the Department of Agriculture's main nutrition assistance programs would continue operating for the time being even if the agency's funding lapses in mid-January, a USDA spokesperson told CNN. Those enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, would receive their food stamp benefits in January and February, as usual. Also, pregnant women, new moms, infants and young children would continue to receive their WIC benefits through March. (WIC is formally known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.)

This differs from what would have happened had the government shut down in October. The USDA said at the time that it did not have sufficient funding to support normal WIC operations beyond a few days into a shutdown - though individual states may have had additional money to continue the program. And the agency could only guarantee food stamp benefits for October.

Overall, the agency expects it would furlough 59% of its roughly 97,000 staffers in a shutdown, according to its September 2023 guidance. Nearly all the workers in its food safety and inspection service would remain on the job, as would just over half of the staff in its animal and plant health inspection service. But no new rural development loans or grants would be made with discretionary funds, except for emergency purposes.


The Department of Energy offers broad definitions for what continues - and what stops - during a potential government shutdown. Activities, the guidance says, "not related to the preservation of life and property, unnecessary to the discharge of the President's constitutional power, not funded by other than annual appropriations, or not otherwise expressly authorized by law will cease."

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