The last three years of the Trump Administration have already brought us three government shutdowns, and the greater the concessions made by policymakers to reopen government, the more often we are likely to see “governing by shutdown” become the norm. In a shutdown, an agency lacks appropriated funds to operate and must shut down those activities which are not “excepted” by Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards.

In every shutdown, America’s civil servants are left twisting in the wind. Some are told to stay home; some to work without pay; and, in a modern twist, some are told to go home, then to come back to work without pay when the agency reclassifies them as essential, then finally told that they would be paid normally again with funds from unspecified sources. As the most recent shutdown has shown repeatedly, the line between what an agency can and cannot have workers do without appropriations is very blurry and subject to change.

Federal Employees: What to Do in a Shutdown

Because the rules are unclear for how to behave in a shutdown, and the offices who would clarify them may also be closed, PEER has prepared this Survival Guide in concert with retired federal civil servants and publicly available official guidance to help public employees stay on the right side of the law. Read More »

Antideficiency Act – How It Applies

The Antideficiency Act (the Act) generally forbids agencies from continued operation in the absence of appropriations by prohibiting an “officer or employee” of the U.S. government from “mak[ing] or authoriz[ing] an expenditure or obligation” exceeding any amounts available by appropriations or funds allocated for such expenditures or obligations. 31 U.S.C. § 1341. A federal employee also may not involve the government “in a contract or obligation for the payment of money before an appropriation is made unless authorized by law.” IdLearn More about the Antideficiency Act »

Environmental Impact of the Shutdown

While the human impact of the government shutdown is far-reaching, the environmental impact is also of grave concern. National Parks have remained open but with no security or hospitality staff on site, they are being abused and neglected. Water quality and food safety testing aren’t occurring. Large environmental issues such as pollution monitoring and compliance have been shut down. Meanwhile the Department of Interior is recalling furloughed workers for oil and gas permitting as well as opening up federal lands for hunting – prioritizing special interests over environmental protection and legal restrictions of a government shutdown.  Read More…

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