A Crisis Averted

Washington Narrowly Avoids Govt. Shutdown


Yuri Gripas / MCT

The Senate passed H.R. 5305 — legislation that would extend federal funds until December 2021

Politicians in Washington had been scrambling to avert a partial government shutdown for the past few days. The shutdown in question, if it had been initiated, may have caused of a decrease in efficiency of federally-funded and controlled agencies and administrative offices, and finally — the furlough of hundreds of thousands of federal workers amid a national pandemic. 

According to CNBC, however, the Senate and House of Representatives reached a deal, and legislation was passed to increase the federal debt ceiling. Without this bipartisan agreement, federally funded agencies and administrations would have inevitably ground to a halt, with their funds expiring September 31st. Had the shutdown begun, it would have been the second one in less than three years, the first having been from Dec 2018 – Jan 2019 under former President Donald Trump.

According to an agency shutdown plan, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) may have been forced to furlough up to 62% of its employees in various positions, massively impacting the agency’s capabilities and effectiveness combatting the transmission of the COVID-19 virus. Thankfully, with funding secured, operations are continuing as normal.  

Covid Response: How Could It Have Been Affected?

If the government shutdown, due to resistance to increasing the debt ceiling, many federal workers would still have been able to carry out their jobs. This is due to the rule that ensures employment to individuals if their absence puts lives and property at risk. Many, however, would have had to work without pay for some time until sufficient funding was secured to continue normal operations. Those in less critical roles altogether, such as janitorial services, support roles, and those not directly involved in important operations, would have been the first to be furloughed. 

The Department of Health and Human Services’ shutdown plan dictated that the CDC would have been able to continue supporting anti-COVID operations and public health needs and requirements. 

None of these contingency shutdown plans needed to be implemented, however, due to action taken by Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Legislation was passed that extended the fund pool until December, saving the United States from a potential disaster.