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OMB tells federal agencies to prepare for shutdown

White House Office of Management and budget director Mick Mulvaney. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The White House’s budget office told federal agencies on Friday afternoon to prepare to carry out plans for a partial government shutdown, effectively telling them to put their hands on the switch to turn off the lights but not to flip it just yet.

A memo from Office of Management and budget director Mick Mulvaney said: “At this time, agencies should be reviewing their plans for operations in the absence of appropriations.”

Negotiations continued Friday to try to prevent the shutdown at midnight, but Mulvaney said preparations still need to be in place.

“The Administration does not want a lapse in appropriations to occur. There is enough time for Congress to prevent a lapse in appropriations and the Administration is willing to work with Congress to enact a short-term continuing resolution to fund critical Government operations and allow Congress the time to complete the full year 2018 appropriations,” he wrote. “However, prudent management requires that agencies be prepared for the possibility of a lapse. To that end, this guidance reminds agencies of their responsibilities to plan for agency operations under such a contingency.”

The memo repeats almost word for word one the OMB issued in 2013, in advance of the last partial government shutdown. In that case, a follow-up memo told agencies to start carrying out their shutdown contingency plans. A similar second memo could be issued later Friday.

Contingency plans outline which activities must continue in the absence of funding authority for reasons such as security, safety and health. Agencies “should carefully review determinations regarding which employees would be necessary for the agency’s continued performance of those ‘excepted’ functions, to ensure that these case-by-case determinations are consistent with the applicable legal requirements,” Mulvaney wrote.

Everything you need to know about a government shutdown

Under OMB policy, employees furloughed in a partial shutdown are to report for work on their next scheduled workday — Monday, in most cases — to perform what are called “orderly shutdown activities.”

“Ordinarily, furloughed employees should take no more than three or four hours to provide necessary notices and contact information, secure their files, complete time and attendance records, and otherwise make preparations to preserve their work,” the memo says, adding that more time may be needed in limited circumstances.

Furloughed employees would not be allowed to work this weekend, however.

Who gets sent home if the government shuts down?

Employees who are “excepted” from being furloughed because of the nature of their work should report for their next scheduled workday, the memo added.

The guidance also covers matters involving agency-issued contracts and maintenance of information technology and agency websites.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency — which has a shutdown plan furloughing 95 percent of its roughly 14,500 employees — on Friday afternoon told all employees to report for work on their next scheduled day as usual even if there is a shutdown.

“At this time EPA has sufficient resources to remain open for a limited amount of time in the event of a government shutdown. All EPA employees should follow their normal work schedule for the week of January 22, 2018,” an agencywide email from Administrator Scott Pruitt said.

“Should the shutdown occur and remain in place through January 26, 2018, we will provide further updates on the agency’s operating status. In addition, all travel needs to be approved by the Administrator’s Office,” the email added.