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Consequences for Construction as Federal Government Remains Partially Shuttered

The government shutdown in Washington continues for a nineteenth day today, with both sides as dug in as ever over funding for a proposed physical barrier along the international boundary with Mexico. 

The politics of it are straightforward. Here’s what the news agency Politico says about it this morning:  

Democratic leaders don't want a wall. The White House does. Both agree there's something bad going on at the border. They don't agree what it is, and they don't agree what the solution is. We knew this before the networks gave up 30 minutes of their airtime last night. Unsurprisingly, not a single concession was made on either side.

In his primetime speech, President Trump called border security a “crisis of the soul.” Democratic leaders in Congress hit back, saying Trump “must stop holding the American people hostage.”

This inflammatory rhetoric from three coastal politicians in no way brings the impasse closer to resolution.

The construction industry, in the meantime, faces some consequences any time one of its largest customers – and regulators – is temporarily out of business. 

The attorneys at Cotney Construction Law in Miami made the following points related to a shutdown last year:  

... it could have a major impact on federal construction workers in the following ways:

-          Critical path deals

-          Increased costs due to suspensions

-          Delayed project solicitations for new federal construction projects

-          Delayed approvals (e.g., changes orders)

A government impasse can have unintended consequences for federal contractors. However, a shutdown may qualify as an excusable, compensable delay which may entitle a contractor to a time extension. If a project is suspended by a shutdown, contractors need to be ready to show how the shutdown impacted their project schedule. 

“Sometimes government contractors are overlooked in the wake of a government shutdown. However, a shutdown could greatly impact federal construction workers who depend on government funding for their services,” the attorneys wrote. “Whether you are considered an essential or non-essential worker, you are not paid whether you work or do not work. It is not a vacation for many who depend on consistent income. If the government does not authorize back pay, it only exacerbates the problem.”

OSHA is also affected.

“At the national, regional, and area office levels, staffing would be affected at in different ways” the lawyers said. “Key personnel would be required to work ensuring that OSHA can continue to operate on matters of emergencies which involve human life and property protection. This includes emergency response to fatalities, imminent dangers, and issuing citations for serious open cases, for example.”

During a shutdown back in 2013, more than 90 percent of OSHA personnel were furloughed.