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Federal Government Shutdown and LHDs

Dear Local Health Official:

October 2, 2013

The federal FY2013 ended on September 30, 2013, and a FY2014 omnibus spending bill or continuing resolution was not passed, resulting in a temporary shutting down of the federal government.  The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a memo Monday night directing agency heads to execute an orderly shutdown.  OMB requires each agency to maintain a plan for operations in the absence of appropriations. Contingency plans for each agency can be found here.

The length of this shutdown is still unclear.  At this point a clear path forward in the House and Senate to fund the government has yet to emerge.  Depending upon how the federal funding is sourced, your state department or you may very well be able to draw down reimbursement. For grants that are awarded directly to you, you should have received notice about this.  Where federal funding comes through a state department, they should have been notified whether the federal funds can still be drawn down by them for both themselves and through them for your continuing operations. Don't necessarily assume that a federal shutdown means that you can't be reimbursed for ongoing operations of federally funded programs. Federal programs in the current federal fiscal year (October 1, 2013 – September 30, 2014) may actually be funded in part or wholly with FY 13 appropriations. Those funds may very well be loaded already into the federal reimbursement system and bank accounts. They can, therefore, be drawn against despite the shutdown.

In many cases, your usual federal monitors and program officers or your state's typical contacts may not be available to answer questions or attend scheduled meetings.

Impact on CDC
According to the HHS contingency plan:

"CDC will continue minimal support to protect the health and well-being of US citizens here and abroad through a significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations, processing of laboratory samples, and maintaining the agency's 24/7 emergency operations center. CDC would also continue activities supported through mandatory funding including the World Trade Center health program, U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), CDC's Global AIDS program, the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA), Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, and certain childhood obesity activities and asbestos exposure in Libby, Montana".

"CDC would be unable to support the annual seasonal influenza program, outbreak detection and linking across state boundaries using genetic and molecular analysis, continuous updating of disease treatment and prevention recommendations (e.g., HIV, TB, STDs, hepatitis), and technical assistance, analysis, and support to state and local partners for infectious disease surveillance".

CDC is notifying its state and local health department grantees program by program of the impact of the shutdown. The vast majority of CDC's external grants are not on an October 1 funding cycle and therefore can continue as planned.  Project officers may be furloughed and the ability to receive and process progress reports are likely to be delayed.

Impact on ASPR
According to the HHS contingency plan the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response "would continue to maintain minimal readiness and limited staffing for all-hazards preparedness and response operations including the Secretary's Operations Center, the National Disaster Medical System, and specialized medical countermeasure response under the safety of human life exception".

"ASPR would be unable to fund activities related to medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and emerging threats, the Hospital Preparedness Program, and fully staff the National Disaster Medical System. Additionally, the potential assistance to Colorado in recovering from recent unprecedented flooding and the preparation to respond to H7N9 influenza or MERS incident could be delayed".

Impact on Nutrition Programs
According to the USDA contingency plan:

"No additional federal funds would be available to support the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)'s clinical services, food benefits and administrative costs. States may have some funds available from infant formula rebates or other sources, including spend forward authority, to continue operations for a week or so, but States would likely be unable to sustain operations for a longer period. Contingency funds will be available to help States – but even this funding would not fully mitigate a shortfall for the entire month of October".

Current benefits are still available via the recipients electronic benefits transfer card. The balance on the cards would still remain, and the participant can continue to use the card. While the cards will remain active, monthly allotments, or the reloading of funds on the cards, are delayed until the shutdown ends.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will continue operations and eligible households will still receive monthly benefits for October. The Child Nutrition (CN) Programs, including School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Feeding, Summer Food Service and Special Milk will continue operations into October.

NACCHO will continue to monitor the shutdown and its impact on funding for state and local health departments.