Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Government shutdown: which agencies are next in line to close?

Government shutdown: which agencies are next in line to close?

Some agencies and services are still operating as usual – but if no deal is struck, backup funds could run out by early next week
Amtrak, Union Station, Washington
Amtrak gets a considerable portion of its funding from the US government. Photograph: Ken Cedeno/Corbis
We're nearly a week into US government's partial shutdown, which has seen the closure of numerous federal services and the furlough of "non-essential" employees. Congress appears no closer to reaching an agreement, as still-functioning agencies deplete the surplus funds allowing them to operate.
The shutdown has put FDA's food inspectors on furlough, as well as most of Nasa, and it's caused the Department of Veterans Affairs already severe backlog of disability claims to get worse. Though some agencies are still operating as usual, the backup funds keeping them going could run out as early as next week.


The Head Start pre-school program for 967,000 children from low-income families closed on shutdown day. Some states providing contingency funding to keep the programs in place, but five programs have closed so far, affecting more than 5,000 children. The program to close in Georgia is the largest known to have closed.
According to the Washington Post, 23 Head Start programs were up for grant renewals the day the government shut down, including the five that closed.
Public schools will remain open, even though the Education Department is suspending most of its operations.

Domestic violence programs

Rape crisis programs and domestic violence shelters could start closing as early as Monday after the Office of Justice Programs stops disbursing funds on Friday. Each of these programs is reliant on federal funding to a different degree, and the amount of reserve funds can change on a county-by-county and state-by-state basis.
Julie Bornhoeft, a director at Weave, Sacramento's agency for victims of violence and sexual assault, told Think Progress that its funding is diversified enough to provide some stability. However, Bornhoeft said: "For an organization that is predominantly funded through federal grants or federally derived grants, even temporary disruption in cash flow will be detrimental."

The courts

The supreme court will hear its first arguments of the year on Monday, as scheduled. Judges are scheduled to hear six cases next week, including one on political campaign donation limits. The court's building will remain open to the public as normal and boasts one of the few functioning government websites. These measures are only guaranteed through October 11, when an update will be provided if the government is still shut down.
Federal courts, however, only have funds to last through 15 October. Courts will then have to start furloughing employees, but US courts administrative office director Judge John Bates said before the shutdownthat courts would still be able to handle most cases.

Veterans services

Most Department of Veterans Affairs services continue because the government pays for its health programs a year in advance. But the agency warned Congress in September that if the government shuts down for more than two or three weeks it will deplete its resources used to make compensation and pension payments. This limit was not included in a field guide to the shutdown for veterans, according to The Washington Post.

Food programs

Funding for the WIC program, which provides low-income pregnant women, new mothers and children up to the age of five with food, has been cut short. The USDA initially said states have funds that could sustain the program for weeks, and multiple states confirmed on Thursday that surplus funds were being used to cover their programs through October. The agency told EdWeek that the funds may not last past October.
The Snap food stamps program is funded through October and has $2bn in contingency funds available after that.

Patent and trademark office

The Commerce Department is responsible for issuing patents and trademark registration, and is operating as usual on reserve fees from last year. The agency said it expects to operate normally for approximately four weeks, but is assessing how it will operate after that time. The office will close if it runs out of reserve funds, while keeping a small staff on hand to accept new applications.

Immigration services

US Citizenship and Immigration Services runs on user fees and is still able to handle applications and keep appointments at local offices. Its e-verify program, which checks the immigration or citizenship status of new employees, went offline with the shutdown, but the government waived that requirement until the shutdown ends.


The country's dominant passenger rail service gets a considerable portion of its funding from the US government, though it's managed by a for-profit company. These funds are allocated by the Transportation Department to the company quarterly and through reimbursements. It may also lose out on ticket revenue because Washington DC is its second-biggest market.
Analysts told Bloomberg News that Amtrak has enough money to last for the next few weeks, but after that period it's unclear whether the company would be able to function normally.

Public health

The National Institutes of Health is not accepting new patients for clinical trials, though those already enrolled in these programs will continue to receive care. An NIH spokesman told the Washington Post that the agency's closure could affect about 200 people who would normally be admitted for clinical trials, per week. A small group of NIH employees are monitoring experiments, since most were furloughed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention furloughed workers that investigate disease outbreaks, and the annual influenza program, which tracks the disease and helps people get flu shots, was shut down.

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