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Trade Association Advises Federal Contractors to Start Preparing for a Potential Shutdown Now

"Your actions won’t be wasted," said the group’s executive vice president and counsel. 

Lawmakers appear poised to extend the deadline for funding federal agencies from Nov. 21 to Dec. 20, but a trade association advised its members on how to prepare for a shutdown nonetheless. 

The Professional Services Council, which has over 400 member companies that contract with the federal government, hosted a webinar on Wednesday to discuss lessons from previous government shutdowns and how federal contractors can prepare for a potential future one. Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel, said there is not a “one size fits all” approach for federal contractors as they get ready for a potential lapse in appropriations. He gave members questions to ask and things to think about. “Your actions won’t be wasted,” he said.

Chvotkin told members to analyze their current situations now, plan for several possible events and start communicating with contracting officers. “Don’t wait until a shutdown is imminent,” he advised. If there is a shutdown, then Chvotkin said to document everything, help mitigate the impacts when possible, and pay attention to invoices, stop-work orders and labor law limitations. 

After a shutdown, companies must continue meeting contract requirements, keep invoicing prior work, immediately resume stopped work, expect solicitation due dates and new awards to come quickly, and prepare claims for stop-work order impacts, he said. 

The most recent partial government shutdown lasting from Dec. 22, 2018, to Jan. 25, 2019, resulted from a border wall funding fight and was the longest in history. It did long-term damage to the federal government and its citizens, according to several analyses. Chvotkin encouraged members to be proactive in planning for anything and communicating with their government contacts, considering that the partial shutdown was longer than expected.

On Sept. 27, President Trump signed a stopgap funding measure to keep government agencies open through Nov. 21. “I wouldn't commit to anything,” Trump said on Nov. 3 when asked if he would rule out a shutdown. “It depends on what the negotiation is.”

The House is aiming to pass another stopgap measure next week to fund the government through Dec. 20. This sets up a tight timeline for the Senate to pass and the president to sign the measure since current funding runs through Nov. 21. Chvotkin believes there is a “high likelihood the president will sign the [continuing resolution].” However, he said he “wouldn’t place a lot of bets after December 20.” 

(Image via Flickr user National Parks Conservation Association)