US government closure ‘doubles’ TTB backlog

The five-week-long partial shutdown of the US government has “roughly doubled” the existing backlog of permit, formula and label submissions at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

The TTB was forced to cease operating while the US federal government underwent a partial shutdown over Christmas and into January.

This was due to a political gridlock regarding US$5 billion of federal funding for US president Donald Trump’s border wall between the US and Mexico.

During the shutdown, thousands of government employees of agencies deemed non-essential were made to take temporary, unpaid leave until an agreement was made on the funding bill.

Federal employees returned to work earlier this week following 35 days without pay – marking the longest federal shutdown in US history.

The TTB has addressed a number of questions about its operations in a public statement, which said: “We recognise that TTB approvals are critical to your businesses, and that the partial government closure over the past five weeks may have adversely affected your operations.

“The permit, formula and label submissions received during the funding lapse roughly doubled our existing backlog prior to the shutdown, at which time we were on average achieving our service standards of 15 days for label and formula applications and 75 days for permit applications.

“We are still assessing the overall effect of the shutdown on our service levels going forward, and we are committed to working diligently to process these applications and restore normal operations as quickly as possible. We encourage you to monitor for the latest information regarding our processing times.”

As part of its “recovery efforts”, the TTB said it is developing ways to streamline processes, redeploying staff to “critical” areas, authorising the use of overtime where appropriate and applying “risk-based enforcement” methods to address compliance issues that may have occurred during the shutdown.

The TTB has advised applicants that they can help its efforts in numerous ways, including: withdrawing applications that have been submitted but are no longer required; waiting to submit applications until the final formulation or label has been chosen, as multiple submissions with alterations will exasperate the backlog; ensuring any applications are correct and complete; checking the TTB website for guidance and help, and using phone and email to contact the TTB to minimise inquiries needing a response.

The TTB also said: “We will provide an update on our efforts to restore normal operations and service levels when additional information is available, and thank you for your understanding as we work to address these challenges.”

For an in-depth exploration of how the TTB shutdown has impacted the spirits industry globally, see the February 2019 issue of The Spirits Business magazine, out soon.

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Author: Melita Kiely {authorlink}