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A Potential Federal Government Shutdown: What Fire Chiefs Need to Know

The IAFC is monitoring the situation in the U.S. Congress and the potential for a shutdown of federal government operations. Here are some basic questions about the federal government shutdown and answers for your consideration.

What is causing the problem?

The federal government’s budget year starts on October 1. Congress must pass 12 appropriations bills each year before October 1 to fund federal government operations. Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 starts on October 1. So far, the House of Representatives has passed only one appropriations bill (for military construction and veterans’ programs). The Senate has not passed any bills. Congress will have to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the federal government open. However, it is looking doubtful today that a CR can pass the House and Senate and be signed by President Biden before October 1.

What federal government functions will be open?

If the federal government shuts down on October 1, many federal agencies will cease operations and the federal civil servants will be furloughed. Federal operations will continue if they meet the following functions:

  • They are authorized by law to continue even without funding.
  • They are implied by law as necessary to continue even without funding.
  • They are necessary to discharge the President’s Constitutional duties and powers.
  • They are necessary for the safety of human life or protection of property.
  • They are necessary for the orderly cessation of functions.

According to the federal agencies’ plans, the U.S. military, coast guard, and border patrol operations will remain functioning along with airport security. Veterans’ health facilities will remain operational. In addition, Social Security will continue to make payments to retirees and Medicare and Medicaid benefits will continue.

More importantly, employees and activities funded by the Disaster Relief Fund should remain ongoing as is consistent with FEMA’s Immediate Needs Funding Guidelines, Immediate Needs Funding Fact Sheet. The August 20, 2020, contingency plan by the U.S. Forest Service, Forest Service 2021 Contingency Plan indicates that wildland fire operations will continue.

What should I be doing?

Fire chiefs should contact federal partners to see how a potential federal government shutdown will affect them:

  • If your department borders federal land, you should check with the relevant federal agency to see if the lands will be open to the public.
  • If you rely on a federal fire department for mutual aid, you should check and see how the shutdown may affect their staffing and operations.
  • If you have a federal contract or grant, please contact the agency and ask how a federal government shutdown will affect grant performance or reimbursement requirements.
  • If you are sending personnel to a federal training center, please contact that federal center to see if the training will need to be re-scheduled.

The IAFC will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates as needed.

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