Congress has approved, and President Joe Biden has signed, a stopgap spending measure that ended the threat of a government shutdown. The newly enacted bill keeps federal agencies open, including their infrastructure programs—but only through Dec. 16.

Biden signed the continuing resolution, or CR, in the early evening of Sept. 30, hours before a shutdown deadline.

Final congressional passage came early in the afternoon, when the House cleared the stopgap by a 230-201 vote.

The Senate had approved the measure one day earlier on a 72-25 vote. 

Biden signed the bill several hours before the midnight deadline for avoiding a government shutdown. The stopgap needed to be enacted by Oct. 1, the start of the 2023 fiscal year.

The road to the CR’s enactment was cleared on Sept. 27 when, faced with Republican and Democratic opposition, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) pulled a set of provisions from the bill that sought to speed federal permitting reviews of major energy infrastructure projects.

Under the just-enacted stopgap, most federal programs will be funded at their current, fiscal 2022 levels.

That also means state departments of transportation and regional and local transit agencies will not have access to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s increased highway and transit funding levels that were to kick in on Oct. 1. 

For state DOTs and transit agencies—and the engineering and construction companies that compete for their contracts—the delay in getting a full year’s expected funding on day one of a fiscal year is a familiar reality. 

For example, the IIJA itself was enacted last Nov. 15 and full-year fiscal appropriations for 2022 weren’t enacted until March 15.

The new CR also has some additions that may affect engineering and construction. They include $20 million in emergency funds for the Army Corps of Engineers that is expected to help address the long-running water and wastewater system problems in Jackson, Miss.

Disaster Relief Funds for FEMA, HUD

Senior senators from both parties also highlighted the stopgap’s $18.8 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) noted that the infusion would bring FEMA’s disaster fund up to $35 billion.

The CR also includes $2 billion for the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grants that will assist states and localities hit with disasters in 2020 and 2021.

It is too early to know how much it will cost to recover and rebuild from the damage caused by Hurricane Ian, which barreled through some Florida communities on Sept. 28. But future federal legislation for Florida and other states hit by Ian would almost certainly be coming in the next weeks and months. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a floor statement before that chamber's CR vote, “The Senate will stand ready to provide further assistance if needed.” 

Speaking on the House floor just before the vote in that chamber, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the HUD block grant funding will go to assist Florida as well as Puerto Rico, Alaska and other areas struck by disasters.

Pelosi also noted that the more than $18 billion for FEMA's Disaster Relief Funds will help the agency respond quickly to disasters.

But she added, "We will need more."

The text of this article was updated on 9/30/2022 to reflect House passage and Biden's signing of the stopgap spending bill.