OMB has told Congress that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is running out of money, threatening furloughs that reportedly could start as soon as early August.
USCIS is an agency of about 19,000 employees that gets almost all of its funding from fees it charges, not from regular appropriations—but which started “experiencing a significant decline in Immigration examination fee account nonpremium fee receipts in mid-March due to the impact ofCOVID-19,” the letter said. Receipts dropped 51 percent over a two-week period in March-April compared with the prior year and are “expected to be more than 60 percent below initial forecast for the remainder of the fiscal year,” it said.
The agency “will not have sufficient funding to maintain operations through the end of the fiscal year, nor will USCIS have balances to fund its operations during the first quarter of fiscal year 2021,” OMB said in supporting the agency’s request for a supplement, reportedly of $1.2 billion that would be used to close the gap through September and start off the new fiscal year.
While the OMB letter did not explicitly mention that furloughs would be needed if that funding isn’t provided, the agency has said that some 13,400 employees could be furloughed. Because the furloughs could extend more than 30 days, employees would have to be told of the possibility at least that far ahead of time, meaning roughly by the end of this month. There have been reports that notices could now go out at any time.
Congress has enacted several special spending bills in response to the pandemic, and a further bill would be the most likely vehicle for adding funding for USCIS. However, the most recent one that passed the House—which did not include such money—has stalled in the Senate.