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Government Shutdown Leads to Free Food, But Only for Government Workers

Government Shutdown Leads to Free Food, But Only for Government Workers

Chefs are giving out free food, but not to just everyone

Restaurants and Chefs in DC are protesting the government shutdown with special food and drinks to all but those in congress.

Due to the government shutdown earlier this week, there have been countless layoffs, according to Reuters. But chefs such as Bryan Voltaggio and José Andrés, and restaurants including Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café are showing their sympathy with happy hours and free food. But here’s the catch: it’s not for everyone.

As reported by Huffington Post, Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café announced on twitter : “govt. shutdown: Happy hr prices, ‘til closing: $5 all beers, rail drinks; house wine, bar only. (Memb. of Congress pay double.)”

Chefs Bryan Voltaggio and José Andrés are taking it one step further. As reported by People, Voltaggio’s restaurant, Range, is offering free cheese pizza with a government ID. On Twitter, he said, “forgot to mention… members of the congress not eligible until you get your sh*t together.”

At Andrés’s three restaurants, Jaleo, Oyamel, and Zaytinya, though it is unknown for how many days, from 3PM to 5PM they will be giving out free sandwiches only for those “furloughed.” In Andrés’s case, he has a personal reason to be a little irritated since his hopes of becoming an American citizen are now a bit delayed.


Good Question: Do Members Of Congress Get Paid During The Shutdown?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hundreds of thousands of federal workers won’t be getting paid for the foreseeable future. That had many of you emailing, wanting to know: Do members of Congress get paid during a government shutdown?

“I was hoping they weren’t paid in the shutdown,” said Larry Lozinski of Richfield. “I was hoping it would help them get motivated to talk with each other.”

All 435 House members and 100 Senators are paid through the shutdown.

“Their pay is written into law,” said University of Minnesota political science professor Kathryn Pearson. “Members of Congress are paid during shutdowns, because their pay is not subject to the annual appropriations process.”

It’s those twelve appropriations bills Congress hasn’t yet passed that fund the salaries of all other federal workers, including Congressional staffers.

But the members’ annual salaries of $174,000 come from a different pool. The Speaker of the House makes more at $223,500 a year.

“The idea is that members of Congress aren’t determining their own salary,” Pearson said. “The law was designed to protect the public from Congressional excess, members voting themselves pay raises while in office.”

In addition to the Congressional pay law, the 27th Amendment prevents members from making any salary changes this session. The 27th Amendment specifically prevents any salary changes until the start of a new term.

As for Congressional staffers, those who are considered essential are working now without pay. They will receive back pay when the shutdown is over. As for other federal workers or staffers who have been furloughed, it’s unclear if they will receive back pay. When the government shutdown in 1995-1996 for 28 days total, those furloughed workers did receive back pay.

WCCO-TV asked Minnesota’s Congressional delegation about what they’ll do with their paychecks during the shutdown.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) said she’d donate to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.

Sen. Al Franken (D) said he’d donate to a “charitable organization that’s helping people affected by the shutdown.”

Rep. Tim Walz (D-1st District) said he will donate to ECHO Food Shelf of Mankato and Rochester’s Channel One Regional Food Bank.

Rep. John Kline (R-2nd District) has asked for his pay to be withheld.

Rep. Erik Paulsen (R- 3rd District) said he’d ask for pay to be withheld.

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-4th District) did not return calls.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D – 5th District) said he will keep pay. In a statement, he wrote: “If handing back pay would help furloughed workers I would find a way to survive without pay, but of course it won’t. Only allowing a vote on a clean continuing resolution will do that. The focus on Congressional pay is an attempt to draw attention away from the issue.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R – 6th District) said she’d ask for pay to be withheld.

Rep. Collin Peterson (D – 7th District) did not return calls.

Rep. Rick Nolan (D – 8th District) said he will donate a portion to charity.


Food Stamps (SNAP Food Benefits)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal nutrition program. Known previously as "food stamps," SNAP benefits can help you stretch your food budget if you have a low income.

Learn About the Types of Food You Can Buy With SNAP Benefits

If you&rsquore eligible, you can purchase food using benefits that are issued to you monthly. You can use your SNAP benefits to buy a variety of foods for your household, including:

Find Out If You Are Eligible for SNAP

To determine if you are eligible for SNAP benefits, you must meet certain requirements. States have income limits for SNAP recipients. They can also factor in your resources, such as money in the bank, to decide if you qualify for SNAP.

Apply for SNAP Benefits

Use the online map to apply for SNAP and to find your state and local offices and phone numbers. You may also apply in person at your state or local office.

How Your SNAP Benefits Work

Your state will issue benefits each month on a plastic electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card. Much like a credit or debit card, you can use your EBT card to buy eligible food items. You must buy them from:

Some states have websites set up for managing your benefits. If your state doesn't have an EBT management website, you can contact your state SNAP office to check your benefits.

File a Complaint About SNAP

Whether you currently receive SNAP benefits or you're in the process of applying, you can file a complaint using these resources:

File a complaint online or by phone about a SNAP retailer. You will need to give the name and the location of the store. You may remain anonymous if you choose.

Contact your state's SNAP fraud hotline or website if you suspect fraud or abuse of the SNAP program.

Learn how to file a complaint if you believe you have experienced discrimination in the SNAP program because of:

SNAP Information For Retailers

Learn how to work with SNAP if you are a retailer or if you operate a farmers market.


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Recent U.S. Government Shutdowns

Before 1980, funding gaps occurred but they rarely led to shutdowns. Agencies assumed Congress meant for them to keep working, so they did. But U.S. Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti issued two opinions that required agency heads to suspend operations until Congress appropriated the funds. Only essential functions or agencies that had the funds could continue.  

The longest shutdown lasted 35 days from Dec. 21, 2018, through Jan. 25, 2019. A 16-day shutdown began on Oct. 1, 2013. Two brief shutdowns occurred in January and February 2018.  

The government began the year in a shutdown that had started in 2018. It lasted until Jan. 25, 2019.  

The first shutdown of the year began on Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, when the government closed down for almost three days. The U.S. Senate failed to pass a continuing resolution to extend spending until Feb. 16, 2018. The resolution was a stopgap measure to buy time to pass the budget for fiscal 2018.  

On Jan. 22, Congress ended the shutdown. It passed a continuing resolution that expired at midnight on Feb. 8, 2018.  

On the morning of Feb. 9, the government shut down again, this time for only a few hours, until the president and Congress could pass another continuing resolution.  

The third shutdown began on Dec. 22, 2018. It lasted 34 days, until Jan. 25, 2019. It delayed $18 billion in discretionary spending. It reduced economic output by $11 billion: $3 billion in the fourth quarter of 2018 and $8 billion in the first quarter of 2019.    

The shutdown went on from Oct. 1 to Oct. 17, 2013. Around 850,000 employees, or 40% of the federal civilian workforce, were furloughed. Reduced government spending lowered GDP by 0.3%.  

Republicans used the shutdown to try to stop the launch of Obamacare. The Republican-controlled House submitted a continuing resolution that lacked the funds to administer the Affordable Care Act of 2010. The Senate rejected the bill and sent one back that funded the program. The House ignored that bill. It sent one back that delayed Obamacare’s implementation. The Senate ignored that bill and the government shut down.  

Ironically, the shutdown did not stop the rollout of Obamacare. A large portion of its funding is part of the mandatory budget, just like Social Security and Medicare. The Department of Health and Human Services had already sent out the funds needed to launch the health insurance exchanges.  

The Obama administration reported the shutdown slowed economic growth by 0.2% to 0.6%. It also cost 120,000 jobs. Around 850,000 federal employees were furloughed each day.  

The government shut down twice: Nov. 13 to Nov. 19, 1995, and Dec. 15, 1995, to Jan. 6, 1996.   In the first shutdown, 825,000 federal employees were furloughed. During the second shutdown, 284,000 federal employees were furloughed  . In the second shutdown, fewer workers were furloughed because Congress had passed some appropriations bills. Other workers were called back without pay because the positions were reclassified as critical.

The two shutdowns cost $1.4 billion, according to the Office of Management and Budget.   That’s worth $2.4 billion today. In addition, 480,000 emergency employees, including prison guards, medical personnel, and FBI agents, worked without pay. At least 170,000 veterans missed their monthly education benefits. Over 200,000 passport applications were held up. More than 7 million National Park visits, and 2 million museum visits, were prevented.


The Government Shutdown and Our Permission Society

Federal law requires employers check the citizenship status of anyone they hire to make sure any new employees are allowed to work in the United States. To facilitate the process, the Department of Homeland Security offers E-Verify, a free online service that cross-checks information from employment forms with the Social Security Administration and from other government records. Some states (and federal contractor guidelines) require employers to use E-Verify to check potential employees' legal status.

But E-Verify has been rendered "unavailable" by the government shutdown. The site states that during the shutdown, employers should make sure the familiar I-9 forms are still filled out as required, but E-Verify checks and deadlines are suspended until the shutdown ends. Nevertheless, the DHS has no control over enforcement of state hiring laws, making private employers skittish about hiring at all.

Some (particularly libertarians) might get excited about the shutdown of the invasive, bureaucratic functions of our federal government. But the shutting down of the government does not void the thousands of federal laws and regulations already on the books. It may make enforcement of them even more scattershot and unpredictable than they already were, but they're still there. In a society where the government demands we seek permission from them to engage in acts of commerce, the inability of businesses to actually comply is a good demonstration of the dangers of too much bureaucracy and regulation.

Last week, craft brewers became the poster children of this consequence. The Associated Press noted on Oct. 9 that the closure of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, part of the Treasury Department, has put the brakes on development of new small breweries. The bureau approves breweries, recipes, and labels, or at least it did until the shutdown:

Mike Brenner is trying to open a craft brewery in Milwaukee by December. His application to include a tasting room is now on hold, as are his plans to file paperwork for four labels over the next few weeks. He expects to lose about $8,000 for every month his opening is delayed.

"My dream, this is six years in the making, is to open this brewery," Brenner said. "I've been working so hard, and I find all these great investors. And now I can't get started because people are fighting over this or that in Washington. … This is something people don't mess around with. Even in a bad economy, people drink beer."

Credit: Eric in DUB / Foter / CC BY

In the Pacific Northwest, the shutdown could ruin the king crab fishing season. The crabs will still be there, of course, but fishermen cannot get government permission to catch them. From KIRO TV in Seattle on Oct. 5:

Capt. Moore Dye of the Western Mariner fishing vessel said his crew was just preparing to leave the fisherman's terminal in Seattle. On Saturday morning, his crew worked on loading dozens of pots onto the boat.

"The king crab season is like the Super Bowl of crab fishing. It's short, it's a lot of money, really fast," Dye said.

But with the possible delay in the start of the season, challenges arise when trying to meet specific deadlines for shipments to Japan, the largest buyer.

"It'll more drive up the price for us to catch it. Because we have to sit around with the engines running, guys are sitting idle, so it could add up," he said.

The government is so involved in our lives that even basic commerce—simply hiring people—is threatened by political jockeying. Democratic Sen. Harry Reid attacked Republicans as "anarchists" for bringing about the shutdown. Nothing could be further from anarchy than fishing boats sitting idle, waiting for a government functionary to give sailors permission to work. And yet, the common response is anger about the government shutdown, not anger about having to jump through so many hoops in the first place. Even before the shutdown, it would take months for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to approve permits for craft breweries.

Of course, should the crab fishers attempt business as usual, they would undoubtedly find that the parts of government that enforce the regulations are still working. The federal employees with the ability to punish are still on the job.

Such is often the case when municipal governments face cutbacks as well. Citizens may discover it can take months to navigate government bureaucracy and workers point the finger at staff cuts. But fail to jump through the hoops, like small businesses in non-functional Detroit have attempted, and the bureaucrats and enforcers will come to shut it down.

Government has cleverly made itself impossible to live without because officials have made it illegal for nearly any commerce to take place without its extensive permission structure. The ultimate consequence of such broad government intervention in all aspects of the economy reinforces the idea that we cannot shut down or cut back government, because the regulatory structures and laws still exist.


How the Black Panthers’ Breakfast Program Both Inspired and Threatened the Government

In 1969, a group of children sat down to a free breakfast before school. On the menu: chocolate milk, eggs, meat, cereal and fresh oranges. The scene wouldn’t be out of place in a school cafeteria these days𠅋ut the federal government wasn’t providing the food. Instead, breakfast was served thanks to the Black Panther Party.

At the time, the militant black nationalist party was vilified in the news media and feared by those intimidated by its message of Black Power and its commitment to ending police brutality and the subjugation of Black Americans. But for students eating breakfast, the Black Panthers’ politics were less interesting than the meals they were providing.

“The children, many of whom had never eaten breakfast before the Panthers started their program,” the Sun Reporterwrote, “think the Panthers are ‘groovy’ and ‘very nice’ for doing this for them.”

The program may have been groovy, but its purpose was to fuel revolution by encouraging black people’s survival. From 1969 through the early 1970s, the Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast for School Children Program fed tens of thousands of hungry kids. It was just one facet of a wealth of social programs created by the party𠅊nd it helped contribute to the existence of federal free breakfast programs today.

Brad Jones, member of the Philadelphia Black Panthers Organization, helping serve breakfast to youngsters. (Credit: Bill Ingraham/AP Photo)

When Black Panther Party founders Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the party in 1966, their goal was to end police brutality in Oakland. But a faction of the Civil Rights Movement led by SNCC member Stokeley Carmichael began calling for the uplift and self-determination of African-Americans, and soon Black Power was part of their platform.

At first, the Black Panther Party primarily organized neighborhood police patrols that took advantage of open-carry laws, but over time its mandate expanded to include social programs, too.

Free Breakfast For School Children was one of the most effective. It began in January 1969 at an Episcopal church in Oakland, and within weeks it went from feeding a handful of kids to hundreds. The program was simple: party members and volunteers went to local grocery stores to solicit donations, consulted with nutritionists on healthful breakfast options for children, and prepared and served the food free of charge.

School officials immediately reported results in kids who had free breakfast before school. “The school principal came down and told us how different the children were,” Ruth Beckford, a parishioner who helped with the program, said later. “They weren’t falling asleep in class, they weren’t crying with stomach cramps.”

Soon, the program had been embraced by party outposts nationwide. At its peak, the Black Panther Party fed thousands of children per day in at least 45 programs. (Food wasn’t the only part of the BPP’s social programs they expanded to cover everything from free medical clinics to community ambulance services and legal clinics.)

Bill Whitfield, member of the Black Panther chapter in Kansas City, serving free breakfast to children before they go to school. (Credit: William P. Straeter/AP Photo)

For the party, it was an opportunity to counter its increasingly negative image in the public consciousness𠅊n image of intimidating Afroed Black men holding guns—while addressing a critical community need. “I mean, nobody can argue with free grits,” said filmmaker Roger Guenveur Smith in A Huey P. Newton Story, a 2001 film in which he portrays Newton.

Free food seemed relatively innocuous, but not to FBI head J. Edgar Hoover, who loathed the Black Panther Party and declared war against them in 1969. He called the program “potentially the greatest threat to efforts by authorities to neutralize the BPP and destroy what it stands for,” and gave carte blanche to law enforcement to destroy it.

The results were swift and devastating. FBI agents went door-to-door in cities like Richmond, Virginia, telling parents that BPP members would teach their children racism. In San Francisco, writes historian Franziska Meister, parents were told the food was infected with venereal disease sites in Oakland and Baltimore were raided by officers who harassed BPP members in front of terrified children, and participating children were photographed by Chicago police.

“The night before [the first breakfast program in Chicago] was supposed to open,” a female Panther told historian Nik Heynan, “the Chicago police broke into the church and mashed up all the food and urinated on it.”

Ultimately, these and other efforts to destroy the Black Panthers broke up the program. In the end, though, the public visibility of the Panthers’ breakfast programs put pressure on political leaders to feed children before school. The result of thousands of American children becoming accustomed to free breakfast, former party member Norma Amour Mtume told Eater, was the government expanded its own school food programs.

Though the USDA had piloted free breakfast efforts since the mid 1960s, the program only took off in the early 1970s—right around the time the Black Panthers’ programs were dismantled. In 1975, the School Breakfast Program was permanently authorized. Today, it helps� over 14.57 million children before school𠅊nd without the radical actions of the Black Panthers, it may never have happened.


Q&A: Everything You Should Know About Government Shutdowns

The new fiscal year (FY) will begin on October 1, 2020, and Congress has so far enacted none of the 12 appropriations bills setting discretionary spending levels. Lawmakers have until midnight on the final day of the fiscal year – September 30 – to enact legislation to fund the programs covered by the appropriations process, or the government will shut down. A continuing resolution (CR) to allow lawmakers more time to complete work on spending bills is likely to be considered. A shutdown in FY 2021 would affect all federal activities covered by discretionary appropriations, as opposed to the most recent FY 2019 shutdown that began in late 2018 and extended into early 2019 that affected departments and agencies covered by the seven appropriations bills that Congress had not yet enacted.

What is a government shutdown?

Many federal government agencies and programs rely on annual funding appropriations passed by Congress. Every year, Congress must pass and the President must sign budget legislation for the next fiscal year, consisting of 12 appropriations bills, one for each Appropriations subcommittee. Congress has not yet enacted any of the 12 bills for FY 2021 that make up the discretionary spending budget. In a “shutdown,” federal agencies must discontinue all non-essential discretionary functions until new funding legislation is passed and signed into law. Essential services continue to function, as do mandatory spending programs.

What services are affected in a shutdown and how?

Each federal agency develops its own shutdown plan, following guidance released in previous shutdowns and coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The plan identifies which government activities may not continue until appropriations are restored, requiring furloughs and the halting of many agency activities. Essential services – many of which are related to public safety – continue to operate, with payments covering any obligations incurred only when appropriations are enacted. In prior shutdowns, border protection, in-hospital medical care, air traffic control, law enforcement, and power grid maintenance have been among the services classified as essential, while some legislative and judicial staff have also been largely protected. Mandatory spending not subject to annual appropriations, such as for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, also continues. Other examples of activities that continue are those funded by permanent user fees that are not subject to appropriations, such as immigration services funded by visa fees.

Although many programs are exempt, the public is still likely to feel the impact of a shutdown in a number of ways. For example, in a full shutdown:

  • Social Security and Medicare: Checks are sent out, but benefit verification as well as card issuance would cease. While unlikely to happen again, during the 1995-1996 shutdown more than 10,000 Medicare applicants were temporarily turned away every day of the shutdown.
  • Environmental and Food Inspection: In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) halted site inspections for 1,200 different sites that included hazardous waste, drinking water, and chemical facilities, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) delayed almost 900 inspections. During the 2018-2019 shutdown, the FDA restored some food inspections a few weeks into the funding lapse for products that were considered high-risk.
  • National Parks: During the 2013 shutdown, the National Park Service turned away millions of visitors to more than 400 parks, national monuments, and other sites. The National Park Service estimated that the shutdown led to more than $500 million of lost visitor spending nationwide. Many parks remained open during the 2018-2019 shutdown, though no visitor services were provided and damage and trash build-up were reported at many sites nationwide.
  • Air Travel: During the 2018-2019 shutdown, air travel was strained as a result of air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents working without pay. Travelers faced longer lines as some TSA agents did not report to work and security checkpoints were closed, while the absence of 10 air traffic controllers temporarily stopped travel at LaGuardia Airport and caused delays at several major airports.
  • Health and Human Services: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) would be prevented from admitting new patients or processing grant applications. In 2013, states were forced to front the money for formula grant programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, sometimes described as “cash welfare”).
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS): In the event of a shutdown, the IRS would not be able to provide its normal service of verifying income and Social Security numbers. In 2013, a backlog of 1.2 million such requests delayed mortgage and other loan approvals and billions of dollars of tax refunds were also delayed. At least 26,000 furloughed IRS employees were recalled to work during the 2018-2019 shutdown in preparation for tax season, but 14,000 did not show up to work without pay.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Though funding for the SNAP program is mandatory, the ability to send out “food stamp” benefits could be affected by a shutdown, since continuing resolutions have generally only authorized the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to send out benefits for 30 days after a shutdown begins. During the 2018-2019 shutdown, the USDA paid February SNAP benefits early on January 20, just before the 30-day window ended, but it would have been unable to pay March benefits had the shutdown continued. In addition, during any shutdown, stores are not able to renew their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card licenses, so those whose licenses expire would not be able to accept SNAP benefits during a shutdown.

Is the government preparing for a shutdown?

OMB maintains a list of the various contingency plans federal agencies will follow during a shutdown. Most have been updated within the past two years, but some have not been updated since a previous shutdown threat in late 2015.

How would federal employees be affected?

A full shutdown would be more extensive than the partial shutdown that started in December 2018 when Congress had enacted 5 of the 12 appropriations bills. A full shutdown would likely be similar to recent ones in 2013 and early 2018 when approximately 850,000 out of 2.1 million non-postal federal employees were furloughed. In 2013, most of the 350,000 civilian employees at the Department of Defense were summoned back to work within a week. Furloughed employees are not allowed to work and do not receive paychecks but are guaranteed back pay due to legislation passed in January 2019. Federal contractors have historically not received back pay.

At the beginning of the partial 2018-2019 shutdown, an estimated 380,000 employees were furloughed, a smaller number than usual since large federal employers such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense were already funded. Another 420,000 employees reported to work but did not receive pay until the shutdown ended. As the 2018-2019 shutdown continued departments and agencies, such as the IRS and State Department, recalled an increasing number of employees.

How and why do mandatory programs continue during a shutdown?

Whereas discretionary spending must be appropriated every year, mandatory spending is authorized either for multi-year periods or permanently. Thus, mandatory spending generally continues during a shutdown. However, some services associated with mandatory programs may be diminished if there is a discretionary component to their funding. For instance, during the 1996 shutdowns and the 2013 shutdown, Social Security checks continued to go out. However, staff who handled new enrollments and other services, such as changing addresses or handling requests for new Social Security cards, were initially furloughed in 1996. In 2013, certain activities were discontinued, including verifying benefits and providing new and replacement cards, but processing of benefit applications or address changes continued. During the 2018-2019 shutdown, the Department of Agriculture had to rely on a special authority included in the previous CR to allow them to continue to issue SNAP benefits.

How many times has the government shut down?

Since Congress introduced the modern budget process in 1976, there have been 20 “funding gaps,” including the 2018-2019 shutdown and the one in January 2018, when funds were not appropriated for at least one day. (The hours-long lapse in appropriations in February 2018, though sometimes characterized as a shutdown, did not result in federal employee furloughs.) However, before 1980, the government did not shut down but rather continued normal operations through six funding gaps. Since 1981, 10 funding gaps of three days or fewer have occurred, mostly over a weekend when government operations were only minimally affected.

There have now been four “true” shutdowns where operations were affected for more than one business day. The first two happened in the winter of 1995-1996 when President Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress were unable to agree on spending levels and the government shut down twice, for a total of 26 days. The third was in 2013 when a House and Senate standoff over funding for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) resulted in a 16-day shutdown. The fourth shutdown, starting in December 2018 and continuing into January 2019, centered on a dispute over border wall funding and was the longest-lasting shutdown at 35 days.

Does a government shutdown save money?

While estimates vary widely, evidence suggests that shutdowns tend to cost, not save, money for a number of reasons. For one, putting contingency plans in place has a real cost. In addition, many user fees and other charges are not collected during a shutdown, and federal contractors sometimes include premiums in their bids to account for uncertainty in being paid. While many federal employees are forced to be idle during a shutdown, they have historically received and are now guaranteed back pay, negating much of those potential savings. OMB official estimates of the 2013 government shutdown found that $2.5 billion of pay and benefits was paid to furloughed employees for hours not worked during the shutdown, as well as roughly $10 million of penalty interest payments and lost fee collections.

Shutdowns also carry a cost to the economy. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the 2018-2019 shutdown reduced Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by a total of $11 billion, including $3 billion that will never be recovered. On top of that effect, CBO notes that longer shutdowns negatively affect private-sector investment and hiring decisions as businesses cannot obtain federal permits and certifications, or access federal loans. A 2019 Senate report found that the three government shutdowns in 2013, 2018, and 2019 cost taxpayers nearly $4 billion.

How can Congress avoid a shutdown?

There are essentially two ways to avoid a government shutdown – by passing appropriations or a continuing resolution (see question on “What is a Continuing Resolution?”). Theoretically, the House and Senate Appropriations committees are supposed to pass 12 different appropriations bills that are broken up by subject area and based on funding levels allocated in a budget resolution. Often, these bills are combined into larger “omnibus” or “minibus” legislation.

To avoid a shutdown, Congress would need to pass all 12 appropriations bills through both chambers and get them signed by the President before October 1. This could be done by enacting each bill individually or by packaging them together through an omnibus or minibus. Congress is likely to soon consider a continuing resolution that would extend current funding levels for a specified amount of time into FY 2021. For more about the status of specific appropriations bills, see Appropriations Watch: FY 2021.

What is a Continuing Resolution (CR)?

A continuing resolution temporarily funds the government in the absence of full appropriations bills, often by continuing funding levels from the prior year. Traditionally, CRs have been used to give lawmakers a short period of time to complete their work on remaining appropriations bills while keeping the government open. CRs sometimes apply to only a few categories of spending, but they can also be used to fund all discretionary functions and can be used for an entire year.

CRs differ from normal appropriations bills in that they often “continue” funding allocations from previous bills at the prior year’s rate or through a formula based on the prior year’s rate. Even when overall funding levels have differed, lawmakers have often simply scaled up all accounts by a percent change in spending rather than making individual decisions on spending accounts. However, CRs often do include certain “anomalies,” where specific items are increased or decreased to work around some problems that would occur from continuing the previous year’s policies, or “policy riders,” where certain funding restrictions are specified in order to dictate policy. Colloquially, a “clean CR” does not contain policy riders or politically motivated changes to funding levels.

How often does Congress pass CRs?

Congress frequently passes CRs when lawmakers are unable to agree on appropriations before a deadline, and occasionally multiple CRs are necessary to fund the government for an entire fiscal year. Congress also sometimes relies on CRs during presidential transition years. In FY 2001, for example, a series of intense congressional negotiations leading up to the 2000 election led to a series of 10 one-day CRs. In total, Congress funded the first three months of that fiscal year with 21 continuing resolutions.

Not surprisingly, CRs have been quite prevalent recently and were used to fund the government entirely in FY 2011, when eight CRs were passed, and in FY 2013, when two CRs were passed. In fiscal years 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2020, CRs were used to fund the government for roughly a quarter of each year. FY 2017 funding negotiations necessitated three CRs before the passage of an omnibus appropriations bill in May 2017, and FY 2018 negotiations required five CRs before the passage of an omnibus in March 2018. In FY 2019, a CR was used for seven of the 12 appropriations bills for more than one-third of the year before the enactment of an omnibus in February 2019, while the remaining five appropriations bills were funded before the fiscal year began. The most recent year when a full-year appropriations bill passed before the fiscal year began and no CRs were necessary was FY 1997.

What are the disadvantages of using CRs?

Continuing resolutions have several negative implications for the budget’s overall efficiency. CRs usually continue funding at the past year’s level without any regard for changing policy needs or the value of each program within an agency. Using a continuing resolution wastes hundreds of hours of careful consideration and program evaluation incorporated into each agency’s budget submission. For instance, the President’s annual budget proposes a list of eliminations and reductions of programs that are duplicative or ineffective a continuing resolution will continue to fund these unwanted programs. Finally, the use of continuing resolutions disrupts activities within agencies, makes it difficult to plan or start future projects, and costs staff time to revise work plans every time the budget changes.

How is Congress addressing funding?

Although Congress has not yet enacted any appropriations bills, the House has passed 10 out of 12 appropriations bills. The Senate has not yet taken any action on appropriations for FY 2021. The House and Senate would have to agree on and pass the same versions of the bills before they are presented to the President for his signature. Congress is expected to consider a continuing resolution that would extend funding, largely at current levels, to allow more time to complete appropriations. For more about the status of specific appropriations bills, see Appropriations Watch: FY 2021.

How does a shutdown differ from a default?

In a shutdown, the federal government temporarily stops paying employees and contractors who perform government services, whereas in a default the list of parties not paid is much broader. In a default, the government exceeds the statutory debt limit and is unable to pay some of its creditors (or other obligations). Without enough money to pay its bills, all of the federal government’s payments are at risk — including all government spending, mandatory payments, interest on our debts, and payments to U.S. bondholders. While a government shutdown would be disruptive, a government default could be disastrous. For more on a default, see our Q&A: Everything You Should Know About the Debt Ceiling.)

How does a shutdown differ from “sequestration” or “sequester”?

A government shutdown closes down non-essential government operations due to a lack of funding, whereas a sequester or sequestration is shorthand for the reductions in discretionary spending caps in place that constrain the total amount of funding for annually appropriated programs.

The first example of sequestration was included in the Gramm–Rudman–Hollings Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985. The most recent version of sequestration, a product of the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, resolved the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations. The BCA created a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the “Super Committee”) to identify at least $1.5 trillion of deficit reduction over 10 years, and set in motion the sequester if it did not identify at least $1.2 trillion. The failure of the Super Committee triggered sequestration, causing discretionary spending caps to be automatically lowered for both defense and non-defense. Congress has never allowed the full sequester to take effect, passing partial sequester relief in 2013 and 2015, and more than fully reversing the sequester in 2018 and 2019. If appropriations bills violate the increased spending caps, then across-the-board cuts will be triggered.


Responsibilities of the EPA

The EPA sets and enforces tolerable limits of pollution, and it establishes timetables to bring polluters into line with standards, an important aspect of its work since most of these requirements are recent and industries must be given reasonable time, often several years, to conform to new standards. The EPA also has the authority to coordinate and support the research and anti-pollution efforts of state and local governments, private and public groups, and educational institutions. Furthermore, regional EPA offices have the power to develop, propose, and implement approved regional programs for comprehensive environmental protection. While the EPA delegates some responsibilities such as monitoring and enforcement to state governments, it retains the authority to enforce policies through fines, sanctions, and other measures granted by the federal government.


Attendance even at an event for which no fee is charged to any attendee can implicate gift policies. To determine the effective value of the event, employees should add the value of any food, beverages, entertainment, or other tangible benefits offered to attendees, but do not need to consider the cost incurred by the sponsor for the venue where the event is held. Employees who are considering attending such an event are encouraged to seek advice from their agency ethics office. See OGE Legal Advisory 15-05 at www.oge.gov.

While employees may not accept gifts from prohibited sources or gifts given because of their official positions, there are exceptions, for example where individual items are valued at less than $20 per occasion and a total of $50 from one source in a calendar year.

Gifts must be reported when the total value of all such gifts from one source exceeds $415 in a calendar year individual gifts worth less than $166 do not count toward that threshold. Filers are required to identify the source of the gift, the value of the gift, and a brief description of the gift – excluding items such as food and beverages which are not consumed in connection with overnight lodging. (Note: Separate rules apply to gifts and various types of awards from foreign sources see 41 CFR 102-42.)

For federal employees using someone else’s luxury accommodations (such as a skybox or private suite) when attending an activity such as a concert or sporting event, the guidance states that when reporting the value of such entertainment, employees should add the market value of the most expensive publicly available ticket to the event to the market value of the food, parking and other tangible benefits provided in connection with the gift of attendance. Each tangible benefit included in the gift of free admission is not a separate gift that may be excluded from the filer’s report based on its individual market value.


Watch the video: The Dick Whitman Chronicles (November 2021).