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Key Functions Continue During a Government Shutdown

Does the federal government really close during a government shutdown?


Here's a little secret about the government shutdown: Many federal agencies have continued working right on through government shutdowns of the past. And there's a good reason for that - your health and safety.

See also:What is the Antideficiency Act?

While a government shutdown forces the closure of nonessential operations, there are exceptions for "emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property."

Exceptions to a Government Shutdown

According to a memo from the Office of Management and Budget used to determine what agencies continued running during the government shutdowns of 1981 and 1995-1996, the excepted operations are "those that protect life and property and those necessary to begin phasedown of other activities."

Specifically, according to the OMB, operations that should continue during a government shutdown are ones that:

- Provide for the national security, including the conduct of foreign relations essential to the national security or the safety of life and property.

- Provide for benefit payments and the performance of contract obligations under no-year or multi-year or other funds remaining available for those purposes.

- Conduct "essential activities" to the extent that they protect life and property.

Essential Activities Continue During a Government Shutdown

The OMB, in determining what agencies stay open during a government shutdown, broadly defined as "essential" the following operations:

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