Following President Trump’s televised address on border security on Tuesday night, the partial shutdown of the federal government continued today, moving the standoff in Washington into its third week.
Still, even while the shutdown continues, there are signs it could end sooner than some experts are predicting. “What we are hearing is that there are officials in the White House and in both the Republican and Democratic leadership who are finding paths for compromise,” said Shawn McBurney, the Society of American Florists’ senior director of government relations. “The challenge will be convincing the President that these compromises are a win.”
But, with a Chinese delegation expected to visit the U.S. soon to finalize trade deal details, McBurney said the administration could be increasingly motivated to end the shutdown.
“This administration has made significant progress with trade negotiations with China,” McBurney noted. “They don’t want talk of the shutdown to cloud out that news.”
A number of government agencies floral industry members depend on for services and business processes are affected in some way by the shutdown, including the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Interior, Justice, State, and Transportation, along the Environmental Protection Agency and Small Business Administration.
SAF will continue to monitor the shutdown and report to its members on key issues. In the meantime, among the most significant effects of the shutdown as they relate to the industry:
Eighty-seven percent of employees at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are exempt from a lapse in government funding. Most of the department, including Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Transportation Security Administration, are considered essential personnel, and so continue to work even under a shutdown. Salaries at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services are funded by fees paid by visa applicants and immigrant petitioners.
However, the E-Verify system, administered by DHS, which screens new employees for their eligibility to work in the US is offline due to the shutdown.
“Due to the lapse in federal funding … E- Verify and E-Verify services are unavailable” reads a message on the E-Verify website.
The Internal Revenue Service
The IRS is expected to furlough about 52,000 employees. The IRS Lapsed Appropriations Contingency Plan notes that the issuance of refunds, audit and exam functions will be suspended and IRS personnel responsible for answering taxpayer questions would be furloughed.
Small Business Administration
Processing of loans from the SBA will be delayed.
Despite a department or agency not having its funding bill enacted, not all of functions of those organizations are stopped. Some government services are funded by user fees, mandatory appropriations, and multi-year discretionary funding rather than through annual appropriations bills. Those activities, as well as those that are related to law enforcement and the protection of life and property, continue during a shutdown.
For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Lapse in Funding Plans notes that among the functions that would continue during the shutdown include:
- Inspections for import and export activities to prevent the introduction and dissemination of pests into and out of the country.
- Continuity and maintenance of some research measurements and research-related infrastructure such as germplasm, seed storage, and greenhouses.
If your business, family or community have been affected by the shutdown, contact SAF to share your story, email@example.com.
Feeling frustrated by the impasse in Washington? Want to share your perspective directly with lawmakers and their staff? SAF’s Congressional Action Days, March 11-12, offers a unique opportunity to come together with your peers from across segments in a united voice for the industry. Find out more and register today.
Drew Gruenburg is the chief operating officer of the Society of American Florists.