The process by which Congress designates and approves spending for a specific purpose (e.g., a project or program). Most government spending is determined through appropriation bills each year. These bills must be passed by Congress and signed by the President.

When an appropriation is not passed by Congress before the beginning of the fiscal year, a “continuing resolution” (often referred to as a “CR”) may be enacted to avoid a government shutdown. A CR is a law that provides stopgap funding for agencies until their regular appropriations are passed.