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Appropriations Season: The Process Behind Funding the Government

Posted By WIPP Advocacy Team, Monday, March 9, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, March 10, 2020

It’s that time again - groups of all different interests are preparing to flock to the Hill to get in their appropriations requests. Spring is always the kick-off point for the appropriations and budget process to begin for the following fiscal year and it is time to get the ball rolling. 

In February of each year, the President submits a budget request to Congress. It is important to note that the President’s budget is not a binding document and should be thought of as more of a “wish list” than an actual budget. The agencies (which, as a reminder, are headed by a person of the President’s choosing), release their budget requests; the individual House and Senate committees release their views and estimates of what programs within their jurisdictions should be allocated; and, in March, the House and Senate Budget Committees draft budget resolutions, a final product of which is due on April 15. 

The House and Senate generally pass separate budget bills, which set the top-level spending number for the next fiscal year. One thing you might not realize about the budget is that it does not have to go to the President for approval and it is not a law – the budget is the guide that appropriators use in setting appropriations for individual agencies and programs. 

Last year, Congress put into place a two-year budget plan, which governs this year’s budget numbers as well.

During the time that the Budget Committees are beginning their work, the Appropriations Committees, as well as individual Member offices, are accepting requests from groups and constituents to be included in the process. 

This year, WIPP submitted 2021 Appropriations Requests advocating for funding for critical SBA programs that are beneficial for women entrepreneurs, like the Microloan Program and Women’s Business Centers. Our efforts have proven successful the last few years, and we have seen increases in funding for nearly all programs we advocated for.

Read the 2021 WIPP Appropriations Request Letters to the House Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government Committee on Appropriations:

After requests have been submitted, the House drafts its appropriations bills, usually in May or June. There are 12 of these bills that set individual spending levels for individual agencies. They are accompanied by “directives,” that include specific instructions to agencies. The individual bills must be passed out of the Appropriations Subcommittee under which it falls (e.g., the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government has jurisdiction over SBA), the full Appropriations Committee, and the full House. The bills can see a number of amendments before they are passed.

Meanwhile, in the Senate, the process is identical; however, under the Constitution, all budget and appropriations measures must originate in the House as all revenue-generating measures must begin there. Once both chambers have each completed their appropriations bills, they must reconcile the differences between the two in what is referred to as Conference. If everything is running on schedule, the Conference should take place in September, right before the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

But, as you likely know, everything is not usually running on schedule. More often than not, Congress passes at least one, if not more, continuing resolution (CR), which extends funding at the levels from the previous fiscal year. Passing a CR prevents the government from shutting down while Congressional leaders come to an agreement on the 12 spending bills. Frequently, the bills end up being passed as a package, referred to as an “omnibus,” around the end of the calendar year, sometimes later. 

By that time, it’s time for the whole process to start all over again. The WIPP Advocacy Team will talk through our 2021 Appropriations Requests during the monthly Policy Update webinar on Wednesday, March 11. For questions or comments, reach out to



Tags:  Advocacy  Appropriations  budget 

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Crisis Averted – At Least for Now

Posted By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate, Tuesday, October 1, 2019

October 1 marks a new fiscal year, FY2020, and the government will continue to be funded until November 21. Congress sent the continuing resolution (CR) to the President last Friday, who signed the bill into law before the September 30 deadline.



It is significant that during September, the Congress and the President agreed to two additional steps to bring stability to the budget process. Legislation to suspend the federal debt ceiling and set government spending levels for two years addressed issues that have proven to be problematic in the past. Budget bills, such as these, have provided opportunities for legislators and Presidents to hold government spending hostage to their demands. That’s not to say the demands don’t hold merit but shutting down the government is not without consequences.


Thirty-five days in length, the last government shutdown in January-February 2019 wreaked havoc on small federal contractors. According to a report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, The True Cost of Government Shutdowns, the last three shutdowns in cost taxpayers $4 billion—at least $3.7 billion of it in back pay to furloughed federal workers and $338 million in other costs such as lost revenue.


A statistic that government contractors certainly felt was the Congressional Budget Office estimate that the most recent shutdown delayed approximately $18 billion in federal spending for compensation and purchases of goods and services. Legislation was introduced this year to require compensation to low-wage workers employed by government contractors, including the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act in the House and the Fair Compensation for Low-Wage Contractor Employees Act in the Senate. Although these efforts have yet to gain traction, it is a move applauded by many government contractors.


The angst that builds in Washington around the end of the fiscal year is justified. Even though our members have strategies in place to weather a shutdown storm, a government shutdown affects everyone in the supply chain. In addition to requiring contract modifications to keep providing services during a CR, it also delays grant awards and new projects.


There’s a whole new wrinkle in completion of federal funding for FY2020 that expires on November 21 – impeachment proceedings. Decisions on where the money is spent in the federal government is a key responsibility of the Congress, but it requires the President’s signature. Putting aside partisan wrangling is a requirement for getting this funding passed. Appropriations bills are determined by the Appropriations Committees in the House and the Senate. Since Democrats are in control of the House but Republicans are in control of the Senate, getting these bills to the finish line requires bipartisan cooperation. And, the President has to be willing to sign the legislation.

Senate appropriators say they can “walk and chew gum” at the same time, and have expressed their intentions to keep working to complete their work despite the impeachment proceedings.


Learn more about the implications of the impeachment process.

WIPP Members can join us on Wednesday, October 9 for the October Policy Update webinar.  


There is precedent for taking care of normal legislative matters while at the same time pursuing a major matter such as impeachment. In 1998 in the midst of then-President Bill Clinton’s pending impeachment investigation by the House, Clinton signed all of that year’s appropriations bills.


Where does this leave government contractors? Feeling pleased about averting a government shutdown until November 21, but cautiously optimistic about federal funding for FY2020 after November 21. Here’s where your advocacy comes in. Contact your Congressional delegation urging them to complete the appropriations process. Congress will need lots of encouragement by its constituents to stay the course and complete their work. The small business contracting community can ill afford another shutdown.

Tags:  Advocacy  Appropriations 

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