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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Shutdown threat gets real

I didn't even open an email the Professional Services Council sent out this week offering advice in case the federal government shut down. The idea of a shutdown just seemed so farfetched to me.

I think PSC felt somewhat the same because the subject line on the email was prefaced: “Just in Case.”

Well, it ain’t so "just in case" any longer. All indications are that the federal government is headed to a partial shutdown as President Trump has refused to sign even a temporary spending bill without $5.7 billion in it to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The House has passed a funding bill with the money for the wall, while the Senate passed a temporary spending bill without it.

Unless someone blinks at the eleventh hour, about one-quarter of government agencies will shut their doors at midnight Dec. 21. (Coincidentally, Dec. 21 also is the winter solstice, which means it’s the darkest night of the year. Interpret that anyway you like.)

A partial shutdown means that funding expires at the Homeland Security, Commerce, State, Treasury, Interior, Housing and Urban Development and Agriculture departments. Also running out of funding are the General Services Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Management and Budget and NASA. The Defense Department is fully-funded and won’t be impacted.

But about 380,000 government employees will be furloughed but another 400,000 have been deemed essential personnel and will still report to work, albeit without paychecks.

So how does that impact contractors?

The easy answer is it depends. Whether your customer is furloughed or deemed essential is probably the first thing to determine.

PSC has a government shutdown resource center, so that is probably a good place to start.

On that page you’ll find a checklist of what you need to do. First on PSC list is to plan ahead. So if you are waiting for today, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

Sadly, we’ve all been through this before, because there hardly seems to be a year that goes by where the government doesn’t get right to the brink of a shutdown. And earlier this year, there was a very brief shutdown over a weekend.

But this one might be different. Trump knows this is likely his last best chance to get funding for a border wall, because in January the Democrats will take over the House.

Trump has made a lot of statements that he is willing to shut down the government to win border wall funding.

He recently tweeted we should expect a long shutdown. So at this stage, it doesn’t look like he’s backing down. Sadly, I think the longer he resists, the more dug-in he’ll be.

So we might return from our holiday break with the government still shutdown.

If the shutdown goes into January, more items on the PSC checklist will come into play such as deciding when to issue stop-work orders and determining which employees are at risk for a furlough.

One advantage this time around is that this is a partial shutdown and hopefully companies can shift affected employees to other work.

Either way, it is a stressful time and no one needs stress around the holidays.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Dec 21, 2018 at 12:09 PM

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