The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has issued guidance setting the rules under which federal agencies will operate during the FY2016 Continuing Resolution (CR) enacted (H.R. 719) last week. The CR period runs from October 1 through December 11, 2015.

Under guidance in a memo from Director Shaun Donovan, OMB will apportion (distribute funds to agencies to be available for obligation) funds automatically to appropriations accounts during the CR period, unless language in the CR provides for specific levels of funding or special rules.

The amount provided in the FY2016 CR is the “rate for operations provided in the applicable appropriations acts for fiscal year (FY) 2015 and under the authority and conditions provided in such Acts,” according to the OMB memo. The amount is net of any rescissions, plus or minus mandated transfers, and includes a 0.2108 percent reduction required in the CR (Section 101(b). However, funds designated for Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism and disaster relief are excluded from the 0.2108 percent cut.

OMB calculates the automatic apportionment rate by multiplying the annualized amount by the percentage of the year covered in the CR.  In this case the automatic apportionment rate is 19.67 percent to cover the 72-day CR period.

Not all accounts receive funding during the CR period.  Agencies cannot obligate funds for accounts for which no funding was included in an FY2016 appropriations bill that has been passed or reported out of committee in either the House or the Senate. If a program (PPA) within an account has not been funded (zero-funded) by the House or Senate, the account will receive an automatic apportionment and the agency can, at its discretion, fund the program within the account total.

The CR does provide limited authority (Section 112) to mitigate civilian furloughs during the CR period. The bill does not provide additional budget authority for this purpose, but allows OMB to apportion for civilian personnel compensation and benefits higher than the pro-rata share.  However, OMB advises that agencies must receive written pre-approval to receive a higher rate, but expects few if any written apportionments using this authority.

OMB advises that written requests for amounts higher than the automatic apportionment (“exception apportionments) must include a written justification based on legal grounds. OMB expects, according to the memo, to grant approval for such requests “only in extraordinary circumstances.”