Fedweek

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The House on Tuesday (September 22) passed a temporary funding bill (HR-8319) for the fiscal year that begins October 1, with final enactment now expected to occur in time to prevent a partial government shutdown when current agency funding authority otherwise would expire.

The House vote came after leaders there agreed to add funding for farm relief favored by the Trump administration while the White House in turn accepted the addition of funding for nutrition programs being sought by Democrats. Until that agreement was reached, it appeared that the Senate would set aside that measure after the House passed it, creating the type of brinksmanship that is common as the new fiscal year approaches with no agency budgets in place.

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The measure generally continues funding authority through December 11 generally at current levels with some other exceptions, including boosts for certain health care and veterans programs. The bill also would allow agencies to reallot the funding it provides as needed to prevent any potential furloughs or layoffs through its expiration.

Separately, it would allow U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to raise the fees it charges that provide almost all of its funding. The USCIS has twice delayed threatened furloughs of about three-fourths of its employees due to a downturn in that revenue, with the latest extension lasting only through this month.

The measure does not contain pandemic-related policy changes affecting federal employees, such as several benefits improvements for front-line workers and standards for agencies to meet before recalling teleworking employees back to their regular duty stations (the House Oversight and Reform Committee last week passed a separate bill, HR-7340, with similar language).

The House earlier passed a broad pandemic relief bill with such provisions but Senate leaders set it aside. It is now becoming increasingly doubtful that Congress will enact any further form of pandemic relief before the elections; the temporary funding bill was seen as the best potential vehicle for such language.