Faced with a coronavirus-driven budget crunch and potential furloughs next month, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services told contractors Wednesday that the agency is “reviewing its entire contract portfolio and future requirements to prioritize those that provide the most critical mission essential services.”
“USCIS must ensure mission critical operations continue and funds are prioritized for our employee payroll,” the agency said in a notice posted on beta.sam.gov.
Certain USCIS field offices and asylum offices were reopening today for non-emergency face-to-face services, with application support centers resuming service at a later date. Visitors won’t be allowed in USCIS facilities if they have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in contact with coronavirus patients in the past 14 days. Visitors can’t linger in offices for more than 15 minutes before the start of a scheduled appointment. Masks will be required, with potential removal for identity verification purposes.
The agency suspended in-person services on March 18 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with asylum offices rescheduling interviews and naturalization ceremonies postponed. The issuance of green cards has also been impacted by restrictions put in place by the administration. This has cut deeply into the agency’s fees-based operating structure.
Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow said in an email to staff last month that “given the unprecedented nature of the global pandemic, there is no historical data that can be used to project the scope and duration of COVID-19’s impact on USCIS’ revenue.”
“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,” he said.
USCIS is seeking $1.2 billion from Congress to help offset the agency’s shortfall. In return, the agency wants to raise fees by 10 percent to pay for the financial aid. Applications are expected to be down 61 percent through September, when the agency expects to run out of cash even as spending has been curtailed to mission-critical functions.
Last week, Edlow told employees in an email obtained by CBS News that “a portion” of staff could be subjected to furloughs beginning July 20. The union representing USCIS employees was reportedly told that about 10,800 bargaining employees could face more than a monthlong furlough.
This week’s notice to contractors warned that “industry partners can expect reductions or cancellations of future contract actions (both new starts and re-compete actions), as well as reductions in scope of current contracts, future options not being exercised or negotiated to reduce scope, and terminations for convenience being issued.”
“USCIS leadership is exploring all possible opportunities to curtail spending where necessary,” the notice continued. “As decisions are made on contract actions, USCIS’ Contracting Officers will be coordinating with the affected contractors.”
The agency said it “will continue to communicate with our industry partners on our financial situation and how it will and may impact contract opportunities” on sites sources such as beta.sam.gov and https://www.uscis.gov/uscis-contracting, along with updates including any changes to future requirements on DHS’s Acquisition Planning Forecast System (apfs.dhs.gov). USCIS’ next quarterly conference call with industry is scheduled for July 28.
“These are trying and unprecedented times for USCIS,” the agency said. “We certainly appreciate your collaboration and understanding as we partner to overcome our fiscal challenges and continue to delivery on USCIS’ mission. We will keep you abreast of any new developments and, as always, are fully committed to timely, honest, and transparent communications with our valued industry partners.”