An internal feud between lawmakers about the funding of Obamacare has forced a federal government shutdown on Oct. 1.
Passing the midnight deadline for the new fiscal year without resolution, the standoff between a Republican House of Representatives and a Democrat-controlled Senate over the funding of federal agencies has left government meetings and meetings planners in the lurch.
Over 800,000 federal government workers whose job descriptions are considered ‘non-essential,’ including government event and meetings planners, have been put on furlough until further notice. Government funding for travel has been suspended for federal employees, whether scheduled as an attendee or a presenter at a meeting or conference.
Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary, management, U.S. Department of State, distributed a memo with conditions for federal employees during the shutdown.
“No new travel should be arranged. No one should make new arrangements to attend conferences.
“All speeches to public audiences should be cancelled and no invitations to give speeches to public audiences should be accepted during the shutdown period.”
Some private sector meetings have already been postponed or canceled, including the Symantec Government Symposium, a meeting for government IT workers. Originally scheduled Oct. 2 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the meeting has now been rescheduled for Mar. 11, 2014, at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, D.C.
“The federal government shutdown is most certainly impacting SGMP members,” said Rob Bergeron, executive director and chief executive officer, Society of Government Meeting Professionals. “For many of our members, sequestration had already been affecting their positions and their meetings. But this shutdown brings our industry’s challenges to another level.
“An overwhelming majority of federal government meetings are being canceled today and for the near future, so the shutdown also negatively affects our supplier members who provide facilities and services to these meetings. The impact these unfortunate realities will have on the overall U.S. economy is most unfortunate and should not be overlooked.”
International attendees may also be affected by the shutdown with 14 percent of Customs and Border Protection employees put on furlough. With fewer customs agents on the job, a longer wait time for passport and visa processing for entry into the U.S. only exasperates a long-standing problem for world travelers.
“The U.S. welcomed 67 million visitors last year, and far too many of these valued customers spent the first hours of their trip waiting in line at U.S. airports of entry,” Roger Dow, president and CEO, U.S. Travel Association, whose work to ease international entry into the U.S. began before the government shutdown.
While some Congressional representatives are expressing disappointment and concern over the unresolved bill, the future of the bill, and the government meetings sector, remains unclear.
“Instead of coming together to find reasonable solutions, Congress chose to shut down the government,” said Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. “Governing by crisis is no way to govern at all.”