Yesterday afternoon, District of Columbia Mayor Vincent C. Gray released a detailed plan for continuing District of Columbia essential functions in the event that the Congress is not able to agree on a final Fiscal Year 2011 budget or another short-term Continuing Resolution (“stop-gap” measure) by Friday, April 8, 2011, the date on which the current Continuing Resolution in effect will expire and the federal government will enter a “shut-down.” The federal government has been operating on a series of Continuing Resolutions since October 1, 2010, because the Congress and the White House have not agreed on a final budget. The District of Columbia does not have final authority over its own local tax-payer raised funds or “budget autonomy;” therefore, Congress technically appropriates the District’s budget. Without another Continuing Resolution, or unless Congress specifically exempts the District (which, at this point, is unlikely), the District government may not spend its own funds during a federal shut-down, except with respect to “personnel and activities related to the public safety, public health, or protection of property,” and “key financial functions.”

The mayor’s plan calls for certain essential personnel to remain in place in the event of a shut-down, but many of the offices upon which our clients, particularly those in the real estate industry, rely on a daily basis will be temporarily shuttered. For example, although emergency building inspection personnel have been deemed “essential” and would be allowed to report for duty, all permitting and licensing functions of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) would be closed and routine building inspections in furtherance of building permits would cease. Permits under review would be delayed due to the shut-down and a backlog of reviews and inspections is likely once government operations resume. Certificates of Occupancy, Certificates of Final Completion, Zoning Compliance Letters, and similar approvals from DCRA would not be available if the Federal Government is shut down.

Likewise, the Office of Planning, the Office of Zoning, the Board of Zoning Adjustment, Zoning Commission, and Office of Administrative Hearings would cease all operations. The Department of Transportation (DDOT) operations would be limited to school crossing guards, traffic operations, and emergency management; public space permits would not be available.

All capital projects approved in the Fiscal Year 2010 Appropriations Act or earlier would continue, and certain functions of the Office of Tax and Revenue within the Office of the Chief Financial Officer would remain open. A full list of essential personnel and more information may be found by clicking here.

Congress is still working to finalize the FY 11 budget, but no agreement has yet been reached. There also is the possibility that Congress could pass another short-term Continuing Resolution if a budget agreement is close but not quite attainable by midnight on Friday. Arent Fox is following this situation very closely and would be happy to provide updates as negotiations continue.