Federal Government To Begin The Formal Process Of Preparing For Partial Shutdown – Again

The dome of the US Capitol is reflected in a window on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on April 20, 2023. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Reuters via CNN Newsource)

By Betsy Klein and Tami Luhby, CNN

(CNN) — Congress is quickly approaching a pair of government funding deadlines, with one week to go before a potential partial shutdown and lawmakers at an impasse with no clear plan in place to avoid it.

On Friday, the federal government will formally initiate the process of preparing for a potential shutdown, participating in the mandatory-but-standard process of releasing shutdown guidance to agencies ahead of the March 1 funding deadline. That means federal departments and agencies impacted by the first deadline will need to update and review their shutdown plans.

If this feels familiar, that’s because this is the fourth time since September that lawmakers have run up against a funding deadline, passing stopgap bills in the nick of time in September, November and once more in January to keep the government running.

In January, lawmakers passed a two-step, short-term funding extension setting up a pair of new deadlines on March 1 and March 8. In the absence of a deal in the coming days on a broader funding package or a short-term stopgap bill, known as a “continuing resolution,” a set of departments will run out of money at the end of next Friday, March 1.

The two-step plan passed in January extends funding through March 1 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 March 8.

While bipartisan, bicameral talks continue, House Republicans remain divided on the best path to keep the government open, with appropriators haggling over conservative policy riders deemed poison pills by Democrats – all setting up another complicated test for House Speaker Mike Johnson and his narrow majority.

In the meantime, the behind-the-scenes work of preparing for a partial shutdown still has to happen. The standard procedure laying out the steps toward bringing non-essential government functions to a halt will get underway later this week for all federal government departments and agencies – not just those impacted by the March 1 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 White House’s Office of Management and Budget states.

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

Every department and agency has its own set of plans and procedures. That guidance includes 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. Those plans can vary from shutdown to shutdown.

Here are some of the potential impacts of a partial shutdown, 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 “veteran health care is not impacted,” according to agency policy updated in January. VA benefits, “including compensation, pension, education, and housing benefits,” will also continue during a shutdown. 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 GI Bill Hotline, which veterans can call for support for education and training questions, will stop. 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 any 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 programs running out of money such as public housing operating subsidies, housing choice voucher subsidies and multifamily assistance contracts, according to the department’s guidance that was last updated in September.

The agency had roughly 8,600 employees in September, most of whom would be furloughed in a shutdown. Some activities will continue, such as the majority of HUD’s annual grant programs, including emergency housing for the homeless, when the grant funding has already been obligated.

But because of limited staffing, the processing or closing of loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration may be delayed. The longer the shutdown lasts, the more serious the impact will be, HUD noted in its contingency plan.


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 early March, a USDA spokesperson told CNN. Those enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, would receive their food stamp benefits in March, as usual. Also, pregnant women, new moms, infants and young children would continue to receive their WIC benefits in 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.

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 states, “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.” The guidance does note that if there is only a brief shutdown of five days or less, “no disruption” to Energy Department operations is expected.

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