Government Shutdown FAQs
updated September 28, 2021
OFR (we) published a notice to give guidance to agency customers and the public on December 22, 2020 85 FR 83623. (We plan to publish a new notice, with updated dates, but the same substantive information, closer to October 1, 2021, if necessary.)
Our notice states that in the event of an appropriations lapse, we are allowed to publish documents from unfunded agencies that are 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 (updated September 27, 2021) 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 September 27, 2021) 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: email@example.com or the Legal division: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Documents that are on public inspection will publish as scheduled. They will not be impacted by a shutdown. You do not need to send a new or updated special handling letter.
My agency's document has an assigned publication date but isn't yet on public inspection. Will it publish?
Documents that have an assigned publication date will go on public inspection and publish as scheduled. They will not be impacted by a shutdown. You do not need to send a new or updated special handling letter.
My agency's document was sent to OFR before the shutdown but it's still being reviewed. What will happen to it?
If our editors are close to finishing a document already in the system, they may finish as part of the standard shutdown procedures during the first 4 hours of a shutdown. After that period, any document not assigned a publication date, that does not meet an exception, will remain pending until the government is fully funded.
If the document qualifies for processing under an exception to the Antideficiency Act, you must send us an exception letter before we can resume editing it for publication.
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 (submitted as you would a regular special handling 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.
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).
If you do not include a letter, we will refuse to accept your document and treat it as legally insufficient.
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 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 at an appropriate time.
- 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 at an appropriate time.
- state why your document must be published in the Federal Register, or
- state why publication in the Federal Register is the only viable option; and
- 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.
- 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
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 can only ensure that the site is secure and functional. So, if there are problems with specific documents (formatting, metadata, hyperlinks, etc.), they will be unresolved until our funding is restored. You can always find the official Federal Register in pdf at www.govinfo.gov. If the public inspection list on www.federalregister.gov fails, we will post an alternative from our Public Inspection Documents page when possible. Remember: The official public inspection list is maintained in our office.
ecfr.gov will not be updated. Daily codification is not required under the Federal Register Act, so updating the eCFR does not meet an exception under the Antideficiency Act. We will resume updating the site when our funding is restored.