Mick Mulvaney, the White House acting chief of staff, has asked agency leaders to give him a list of programs that will be in jeopardy if the shutdown continues into March and April, according to the Washington Post.
This is a hint that the White House is preparing for a long lapse in funding that could have greater implications for the economy and government services.
The request was startling for agency officials who have been scrambling to manage the consequences from the shutdown so far. Many are simply trying to keep agencies operational at a time when many workers are refusing to show up to work. Now, Mulvaney is prompting them to figure out how they will run their agencies without funding for an even longer period of time.
Although 800,000 federal government workers have already been effected, the impact is expected to become much broader in the next few weeks. Millions of people will be affected, as the federal court system will likely stop operating after February 1st and the Department of Agriculture doesn’t have funding to pay food stamp benefits in March to approximately 40 million people.
The U.S. General Services Administration, which manages may government leases and contracts, told many departments that in order to make utility and lease payments, they would need more flexibility from Congress. They have asked Congress for $520 million so that it will not fall behind on costs, but the request is still pending.
If the GSA can’t make rental payments, the government will accrue major fees, as many federal agencies lease space in commercial buildings. This would have a huge impact on not only the government, but the property owners.
The White House Office of Management and Budget has been working to ease the impact of the shutdown, but Mulvaney’s request to the agencies reveals that the White House is now beginning to understand the longer-term consequences.