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Monday, January 3, 2011

Federal Funding Gaps: A Brief Overview

Jessica Tollestrup
Analyst on Congress and the Legislative Process

The Antideficiency Act (31 U.S.C. 1341-1342, 1511-1519) generally bars agencies from continued operation in the absence of appropriations. Exceptions are made under the act, including for activities involving “the safety of human life or the protection of property.” The interval during the fiscal year when agency appropriations are not enacted into law, either in the form of a regular appropriations act or a continuing resolution (CR), is referred to as a funding gap. Although funding gaps may occur at the start of the fiscal year, they also may occur any time a CR expires and another CR (or the regular appropriations bill) is not enacted immediately thereafter. Multiple funding gaps may occur within a fiscal year.

When a funding gap occurs, the federal government begins a shutdown of the affected agencies, entailing the prompt furlough of non-emergency personnel and curtailment of agency activities. The general practice of the federal government after the shutdown has ended has been to pay furloughed employees for time missed, even when no work was performed.

During the 34-year period covering FY1977-FY2010, 17 funding gaps occurred, ranging in duration from one day to 21 full days. About half of these funding gaps were brief (i.e., three days or less in duration). Of these, most occurred over a weekend and the disruption in federal operations was minimal.

Almost all of the funding gaps occurred during the first half of the 34-year period between FY1977 and FY2010. During the 16-year period covering FY1977-FY1992, 15 funding gaps occurred. However, only two funding gaps occurred during the remaining 18 years, covering FY1993-FY2010.

The most controversial funding gaps since FY1977 occurred in late 1995 and early 1996, when President Bill Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress engaged in difficult and protracted negotiations over budget policy, resulting in the veto of a continuing resolution and several regular appropriations acts for FY1996. Two funding gaps, amounting to five days and 21 days, ensued leading to the initial furlough of about 800,000 federal employees.

There have been no funding gaps since the two that occurred in FY1996 as of the end of the 2010 calendar year.

Date of Report: December 22, 2010
Number of Pages: 7
Order Number: RS20348
Price: $19.95

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