What the Federal Government Shutdown Means for Meetings

As lawmakers enter another day of a very public standoff, everyone’s talking about what the federal government shutdown means for everyday consumers.

Lawmakers did not pass a spending bill Tuesday, and that standoff also carries some big implications for meeting professionals. Here’s a look at what you need to know.

Federal Employees Won’t Be Clicking the Register Button Right Now

This shouldn’t surprise you, but one of the first pieces of a shutdown is to suspend travel for federal employees. A memo from Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary, Management, U.S. Department of State, clearly highlights that all agencies must respond

“No new travel should be arranged,” the memo states. “No one should make new arrangements to attend conferences.”

Translation: if your meeting attendees typically include representatives from federal agencies, it’s going to be even more challenging for them to receive any kind of approval to participate in your upcoming program. However, they may not actually receive your meeting marketing messages anyway. The memo also asks all “non-excepted employees” to turn off Department-provided mobile devices.

Presenters Will Need to Stay Home

If you have plans for someone from the federal government to sit on a panel or lead an educational session, it may be time to look for a replacement. Kennedy’s memo includes specific instructions that prevent public addresses.

“All speeches to public audiences should be cancelled and no invitations to give speeches to public audiences should be accepted during the shutdown period,” the memo states.

Entering the U.S. is Going to Be Even More Inconvenient

If your meeting is around the corner, your international attendees may be dealing with even longer-than-expected customs lines. It’s an issue that’s been plaguing the travel industry long before the shutdown showdown.

“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. air ports of entry,” Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said last month in an effort to urge Congress to make the entry process better for international guests.

Well, it looks like those valued customers are going to spend more time in line.  Customs and Border Protection will have to furlough an estimated 14 percent of its employees, according to a recent New York Times article that offers an agency-by-agency look at what the shutdown means.

Additionally, passport and visa processing times may encounter some obstacles.

It seems that the U.S. is no stranger to dealing with this issue. The federal government has shut down a total of 17 times since the 1970s. The majority of these instances only lasted a few days. However, when this happened in 1995, the shutdown lasted for three weeks. As the public bickering continues in the nation’s capitol, meeting professionals need to prepare for all of the potential impacts of an extended shutdown.

David McMillin

David McMillin is staff writer at PCMA.