Based on a comment by mcalex on How does a shutdown end if an agreement is never reached?:

Only non-essential services are shut down atm. None of the answers seem to talk about what happens once current appropriations for essential services run out. Can this happen (say, at the end of the 18/19 FY)? And if so, would it affect given answers?

So, can the appropriations for essential services run out? And what's next if this happens?

1 Answer 1


Appropriations for essential services in departments without appropriations have run out. Essential services are being performed without pay, by employees who trust that eventually the shutdown will end and people will receive back pay for their essential services. They would probably have the right to sue the government for the essential services they performed without pay if push came to shove.

Roughly 800,000 federal employees aren't being paid and a bit more than half of them are deemed "essential."

  • Has the US waived its sovereign immunity for suits such as that?
    – phoog
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 22:10
  • 1
    @phoog Sovereign immunity doesn't apply to claims for breach of contract, although such claims must be filed in the Court of Claims rather than in District Court.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 22:49
  • This is half of it, but there's also the question of contracted services/purchased materials from vendors. I'd assume somewhere in the Anti-deficiency Act there is an exception for obligating funds that haven't been appropriated if the obligation is for an exempted service, but I haven't seen any discussion about this. Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 23:14
  • @IllusiveBrian Not sure that there is. I think vendors get stiffed like everyone else.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jan 7, 2019 at 23:50
  • Doesn't the Anti-Deficiency Act prohibit the government from contractually obligating itself to pay? Commented Jan 8, 2019 at 19:00

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