HHS preps skeleton crew for government shutdown

A government shutdown would leave HHS with about half of its staff, with 42 percent furloughed on the second day of closure.

The finding that approximately 42 percent of HHS staff faces furlough if there is a lapse in federal funding comes from a contingency plan that HHS updated Sept. 21. Funding expires Oct. 1, the start of the federal fiscal year. 

Approximately 51,293 HHS staff will be retained and 37,325 will be furloughed as of day two of a funding hiatus. The agency said it will retain a "limited number of staff" to perform the necessarily implied work to support Medicare, Medicaid and other mandatory health program payments.

Roughly half of CMS employees will be furloughed, with the agency noting that only 49 percent of staff will be retained. Five percent of those retained employees are excluded from furlough because their work is "necessarily implied" from the authorized continuation of other activities. The agency notes that those 308 employees will primarily be working to ensure that funded activities, such as the Medicare program, continue operations.

The Office of Management and Budget began advising federal agencies to review and update their contingency plans Sept. 22, The Associated Press reports. The guidance was delivered as House Republicans left Washington, D.C., for the weekend with no plan in sight for short-term funding. Contingency plans per agency, many of which are in need of updating, can be found here

If agreement is not reached in Congress by Oct. 1, the shutdown would be the first since December 2018. That lapse lasted 35 days, although it was considered a "partial shutdown" since lawmakers passed 12 appropriations bills to protect some federal departments, including most of HHS, from disruption.

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