US govt agencies prepare to restart operations

January 28, 2019 08:49
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi distributes pens after signing legislation in Washington on Jan. 25 before sending it to President Donald Trump for his signature to end the partial government shutdown. Photo: Reuters

US government agencies that had largely shuttered operations for five weeks during a budget standoff are preparing to resume operations and compensate employees for missed paychecks.

It comes after President Donald Trump agreed on Friday to end the 35-day partial shutdown, the longest in history, without getting the US$5.7 billion he had demanded from Congress for a border wall, Reuters reports.

The White House held a conference call with Cabinet department financial officers late Friday to discuss the resumption of government operations, while agencies began to grapple with a backlog of management and policy issues.

The partial government shutdown led to some 800,000 federal workers going unpaid, including 380,000 furloughed workers.

Trump on Friday signed a measure to fund the government for three weeks as congressional negotiators try to hammer out a bill to fund the federal government through Sept. 30.

The president had demanded US$5.7 billion in funding for a wall on the US-Mexico border, but Democratic legislators refused to include the money.

The White House Office of Management and Budget's acting chief, Russell Vought, told agencies in a memo to reopen "in a prompt and orderly manner."

Federal workers are owed about US$6 billion in back pay, according to a study released last week.

During the shutdown, some government agencies did not complete contracts for grants, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stopped reviewing and making public new auto safety recalls, and the Federal Aviation Administration stopped certifying some new aircraft and routes.

Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton said on Saturday in a statement that the agency is "continuing to assess how to most effectively transition to normal operations."

He said some SEC units, including those devoted to corporate finance, trading and markets, and investment management and the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, "will be publishing statements in the coming days regarding their transition plans."

The SEC has been unable to approve initial public offerings during the shutdown.

The shutdown is likely to delay the rollout of Trump's 2020 budget proposal and congressional hearings on the budget. 

The US economy lost at least US$6 billion during the partial shutdown of the federal government due to lost productivity from furloughed workers and economic activity lost to outside business, according to S&P Global Ratings.

“Although this shutdown has ended, little agreement on Capitol Hill will likely weigh on business confidence and financial market sentiments,” S&P said in a statement on Friday.

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