Federal Register

Government Shutdown FAQs

updated January 30, 2019

What work can the Office of the Federal Register (OFR) do during a government shutdown?

OFR (we) published a notice to give guidance to agency customers and the public on December 10, 2018 83 FR 63540.

Our notice states that in the event of an appropriations lapse, we are allowed to publish documents from unfunded agencies that directly related to the performance of governmental functions necessary to address imminent threats to the safety of human life or protection of property. Because we cannot make determinations as to whether certain documents are directly related to activities that qualify for an exception under the Antideficiency Act, agencies must submit a letter certifying that their documents relate to emergency activities authorized under the Act. Our notice applies specifically to unfunded agencies.

If there is a partial appropriations lapse, where some agencies are funded (but we are not), we are also allowed to publish documents from funded agencies if delaying publication until the end of the appropriations lapse would prevent or significantly damage the execution of funded functions at the agency.  Agencies must submit a letter certifying that delaying publication of their documents would result in this situation. This certification provides OFR with documentation that publication in the Federal Register is a function or service excepted under the Antideficiency Act.

UNFUNDED agencies: If you wish to submit a document to the OFR during an appropriations lapse, you must attach a special handling letter to the document which states that publication in the Federal Register is necessary to safeguard human life, protect property, or provide other emergency services consistent with the performance of functions and services exempted under the Antideficiency Act. (If it is not obvious that publication in the Federal Register is legally required, state this requirement.) We have created a letter template for you to use.

FUNDED agencies: If you wish to submit a document to the OFR during an appropriations lapse, you must attach a special handling letter to the document which certifies that publication in the Federal Register is required or the only viable option and that delaying publication until the end of the appropriations lapse would prevent or significantly damage the execution of funded functions at your agency. We have created a letter template (updated January 16, 2019) for you to use.

See What do I need to include in my exception letter? for more information about the requirements for an exception letter. If you have specific questions, contact the Scheduling unit: fedreg.liaison@nara.gov or the Legal division: fedreg.legal@nara.gov.

 

Documents submitted before a shutdown

 

What happens to documents on public inspection that haven't published yet?

Documents that are on public inspection will publish as scheduled.  They will not be impacted by a shutdown.

 

What happens to documents that already have a future public inspection or publication date assigned?

Documents that have an assigned public inspection or publication date will go on public inspection and will publish as scheduled.  They will not be impacted by a shutdown.

 

What happens to documents that haven't been scheduled?

If our editors are close to finishing a document already in the system, they may finish as part of the standard shutdown procedures the first 4 hours of a shutdown.  But, after that period, any document in-process that does not meet an exception will remain in limbo until the government is fully funded.  You must send us exception letters to documents that are pending in the system before we can resume editing them for publication.

 

Documents submitted during a shutdown

 

Can I use the webportal to submit documents?

If you already have a webportal account, you may continue to use the webportal to submit documents, as long as the documents are accompanied by an exception letter.  If we receive a document through the webportal without an exception letter, we will kill the document.  Our system will send a notification to the email address your agency has on file.  If your agency uses a group email box, make sure it is monitored.

  • If there are technical issues with the webportal, however, we will be unable to fix it.  If the webportal goes down, you will have to physically submit documents for publication.

 

Do I need an exception letter for all documents?

Yes, you need an exception letter for each of your documents and each letter must contain sufficient legal justification to explain why: :

  • the specific document is an exception to the Antideficiency Act (unfunded agencies) or
  • delaying publication until the end of the appropriations lapse would prevent or significantly damage the execution of funded functions at the agency (funded agencies).

 

What happens if I submit a document without an exception letter?

We will not accept a document for publication if it does not meet an exception to the Antideficiency Act.  The only way we will know if it meets an exception is if you explain how in an accompanying letter.  If you do not include a letter, we will refuse to accept your document and treat it as legally insufficient.

  • If you try to submit in paper, we will set your package aside and when we have funding, we will notify your liaison that we did not accept the document for publication.  Your agency can resubmit the document.
  • If you try to submit through the webportal, we will kill the document and the system will send an automatically-generated email to the liaison address associated with your agency.  Your agency can resubmit the document.

 

What do I need to include in my exception letter?

We have provided templates for both unfunded and funded agencies to use. Using the appropriate template:

  • state why your document is required to be published in the Federal Register, or
  • state why publication in the Federal Register is the only viable option; and 
UNFUNDED AGENCIES
  • explain how publication of the document at this time is necessary to address imminent threats to the safety of human life or protection of property. 
FUNDED AGENCIES
  • state that the document supports funded function or function(s) and include details of the function(s) if necessary; and
  • certify that a delay in publication would prevent or significantly damage the execution of the function(s):
    • show that a delay at this time (as opposed to next week or next month or some later date) would have the adverse effect; and
    • describe that adverse effect

 

OFR websites and technical support

 

Will www.federalregister.gov be updated?

federalregister.gov receives an automated feed from the Government Publishing Office (GPO).  As long as nothing breaks with the feed or on the site, you can continue to see the daily Federal Register and public inspection list.  However, we are not authorized to fix anything that breaks.  So, if there are problems, they will be unresolved until our funding is restored.  You can always find the official Federal Register in pdf form at www.govinfo.gov.  If the public inspection list on www.federalregister.gov fails, we will post an alternative off Public Inspection Documents.  Remember: The official public inspection list is maintained in our office.

 

Will www.ecfr.gov be updated?

ecfr.gov will not be updated.  It is not required under the Federal Register Act and does not meet an exception under the Antideficiency Act, so we will resume updating the site when our funding is restored.

 

 

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