WASHINGTON D.C. — The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was forced to furlough 3,100 staff members after the United States government closed its doors on December 22, 2018. The remaining 1,600 USAID employees were only exempt from the furlough because they are not paid through by the same means or their jobs are considered essential “for the protection of life and property or necessary to carry out the president’s constitutional duties.” Needless to say, the U.S. government shutdown is going to have a major effect on government aid around the world.
The unpredictability of budget battles and negotiations reduces the efficiency and consistency of the delivery of foreign aid programs. In order to manage successful programs and humanitarian aid, USAID requires effective and constant communication with its partners on the ground in impoverished countries, and the U.S. government shutdown prevents efficient conversation. With many countries dependent on U.S. aid, the continued functioning of the U.S. government is imperative for medical, food and financial assistance for these citizens.
With the U.S. government shutdown and negotiations across the aisle taking place, the unpredictability of the budget battles not only negatively affects the foreign aid organizations within the U.S. government but also contractors on the ground in third world countries who are providing medical and food assistance. These contractors are not considered as government employees; therefore, they will not have the opportunity to be paid once the government reopens. This reflects poorly on U.S. foreign relations and could cause problems for future negotiations between the U.S. and other countries. Furthermore, the unpredictability of the U.S. government shutdown presents to allies and adversaries that the U.S. government is divided in regards to legislation.
The foreign aid allowance consists of 1 percent of the entire federal budget. With funds depleting and Congress in need of keeping essential organizations running, the Trump administration may look towards the foreign aid budget and allocate funds from there. Existing contracts that have been approved for funding will continue to operate unless USAID postpones the developments due to lack of manpower or financial resources.
Funds out of the USAID budget may only be allocated during a U.S. government shutdown if it is deemed necessary to protect government property or human safety, if there are already appropriated funds in place or when the current staff is able to manage the activities. The longer the shutdown continues, the higher the costs for reinstatement will be. Contractors and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) may continue to carry out existing programs with pre-allocated funds; however, the amount of management, interaction with USAID staff as well as the payment process will gradually decline.
In light of the U.S. government shutdown, it is clear that resources, funding and manpower for foreign aid will be greatly reduced, which will have a significant impact on efficiency and effectiveness as well as foreign relations. It is now more important than ever for the U.S. government to set aside politics and negotiate a deal to reopen the government and resume providing efficient foreign aid for countries in need around the world.