Funding shortfall may force USCIS furloughs
- By FederalSoup Staff
- Jun 02, 2020
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is facing a funding shortfall that could force the agency to furlough nearly 11,000 employees in July.
Because USCIS relies on fees generated by immigration and naturalization services, which have slowed to a trickle during the coronavirus pandemic, the agency is asking for a supplement of $1.2 billion – $571 million for the remainder of the current fiscal year, plus an additional $650 million for the start of Fiscal Year 2021.
USCIS “will exhaust its funding this summer, and without congressional intervention, we risk not being able to make payroll and will have to take drastic actions to keep the agency afloat,” Joseph Edlow, the acting head of USCIS, wrote in a mid-May email to employees first reported by BuzzFeed.
"The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on our agency's financial outlook," a top USCIS official wrote in the letter to AFGE Council 119 President Danielle Spooner, according to a report by CBS News. "Since the declaration of the national emergency, application and petition receipts dropped to half their previous levels and with them, agency revenue that keeps our doors open."
According to the letter sent to AFGE, USCIS hopes to use the supplemental $571.12 million for payroll, rent, office contracts, fingerprint and background check processing and IT services during the remainder of fiscal year 2020. The rest, about $650 million, would be used to ensure "sufficient resources are available" at the start of fiscal year 2021, CBS News reported.
USCIS estimates a 61% drop in application and petition requests through the end of fiscal 2020.
In a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees in support of supplemental appropriation, AFGE President Everett Kelley said furloughs of this magnitude will undoubtedly cripple the agency’s ability to carry out its mission. “With a loss of nearly 11,000 employees, work and visitor visa petitions, asylum and citizenship/naturalization applications, green cards, and refugee applications will not be processed,” he wrote.
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), who chairs the House Government Operations subcommittee, said he is “monitoring this situation closely, as some of the Trump Administration’s immigration policies have contributed directly to the agency’s current financial crisis, which COVID-19 has only exacerbated.”
The Office of Management and Budget is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security “to identify mitigation strategies [for the funding shortfall] and supports a 'pay it forward' deficit neutral approach that ensures full cost recovery of any emergency supplemental," an OMB spokesman told CBS News.