With Congress yet to pass the 12 appropriations bills needed to fund the federal government beyond the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, a government shutdown is becoming a real possibility.
While a federal shutdown is a rare occurrence, it can create uncertainty and have economic consequences.
A shutdown means there is a lapse in appropriations and requires federal agencies to end all non-essential duties that are paid for using discretionary funds until there is either a Continuing Resolution providing additional funding or upon passage and enactment of an appropriations bill.
In the event of a federal government shutdown, essential functions funded with discretionary funds would continue i.e., certain medical services, federal law enforcement, air traffic control and border protection but many of the federal employees providing these essential services would be doing so without pay until a funding resolution is reached.
Programs funded through the use of mandatory spending – such as Social Security, Medicare and certain federal trust funds like the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) – would continue to function at the start of the new fiscal year.
What does a shutdown mean for ATSSA members and the U.S. Department of Transportation?
The effect of a federal government shutdown will vary by agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). Because the vast majority of federal highway, transit and highway safety programs are funded using mandatory spending from the HTF and not through the use of discretionary funds, these programs will not be affected during a federal government shutdown. This means Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) activities, programs and staffing will continue to operate and reimbursements for project costs should not be impacted. In addition, Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) programs funded through advance appropriations are also unaffected.
The situation is different for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
A perfect storm faces the FAA on Sept. 30. In addition to being impacted from a lapse in funding from a government shutdown, FAA programs also need to be reauthorized by the same date. If there is a lapse in funding AND no extension of the authorization for FAA programs, more than 17,000 FAA employees will be furloughed, and projects funded through the Airport Improvement Program AIP would cease during a shutdown.
The AIP provides funding for most safety infrastructure programs on both the airfield and access roadside of the airport complex.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requires all federal agencies to provide a contingency plan to cover any lapse in appropriations. USDOT has posted its shutdown plan.