What Is A ‘Gov’t. Shutdown’ And How Will It Affect Us? (Video)

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We woke up this morning to the first government shutdown in four years.

The past few days, there has been little talk about anything else in the media, leaving many wondering what the effects of a government shutdown are and how it will affect them.

First, what is a government shutdown?

Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution states:

“No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”

The Antideficiency Act further reinforces this, requiring the Federal government to vote on continuing funding for basic agencies, like the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Park Service (NPS).

When the government “shuts down,” it basically means the funds appropriated to keep government-funded agencies in daily operation runs out.

The only ones continue are those associated with people’s safety, protection of property, or where otherwise “authorized by law.”

We will still receive our mail, and active-duty military personnel will keep reporting for duty.

Particular departments for which Congress has already passed spending bills are safe.

Ditto agencies that rely on funding other than congressional appropriations.

But civilian Defense Department employees considered “non-essential” will likely be furloughed.

Defense contractors may still be required to report for work, but their duties will likely be curtailed.

Inherently governmental” activities will cease.

During the 2013 shutdown, 850,000 federal employees, about 40 percent of the federal workforce, were furloughed per day.

According to the Office of Management and Budget, employees lost approximately 6.6 million work days in 2013, with “furloughs affecting workers at the vast majority of agencies.”

So, how does this affect average Americans?

According to the Congressional Research Service, previous shutdowns saw the following:

  • New clinical research patients were not accepted at the National Institutes of Health (NIH); hotline calls about diseases went unanswered.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had to stop monitoring diseases. (Not good with the recent flu strain.)
  • Federal law-enforcement recruitment and testing stopped, including the hiring of 400 border patrol agents.
  • National Park Service (NPS) sites, and national museums and monuments closed.
  • Visa and passport services stopped.
  • Food, consumer products, and workplace safety inspections stopped.
  • The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was unable to verify income and Social Security numbers, producing a 1.2 million backlog that may have delayed mortgage and loan approvals.

You’ve probably already started receiving 2017 tax documents.

Well, 2013’s shutdown delayed refunds.

This year, IRS staff have to implement changes to accommodate the new tax law–updating software and providing staff to answer taxpayers’ questions.

The shutdown will hamper those efforts.

Social Security and veterans’ benefits will continue, but may be delayed due to a reduced “non-essential” workforce comprised of those who cut checks, stuff envelopes, and issue new cards.

If certain employees are prohibited from reporting to work, their responsibilities stop or abate.

Workers who stay working may not be paid until Congress passes a spending bill.

Furloughed workers are prohibited from returning to work until this occurs “except to perform minimal activities as necessary to execute an orderly suspension of agency operations,” according to the Office of Personnel Management.

According to Politifact:

“Furloughed workers have historically been compensated for back pay through subsequent congressional action, though there is no requirement that such a bill be passed. In 2013, the Office of Management and Budget estimated that $2.5 billion in pay and benefits was paid for hours not worked government-wide.

“As the 2013 shutdown was going on, Congress and Obama agreed to a bill in the middle that paid all active-duty and many civilian Defense Department employees. This enabled Defense Department employees to return to work while the shutdown was still under way for workers in other departments.”

Probably the most significant impact of a shutdown, though, is its cost.

John Palguta, a former federal human-resources official and adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute, said:

“A shutdown is a huge waste of taxpayer dollars, disruptive of government operations, and simply bad management.”

An Office of Management and Budget analysis found the 2013 shutdown cost the United States:

  • $2.5 billion in compensation costs for furloughed workers;
  • 120,000 fewer private-sector jobs created in the first half of October 2013;
  • $500 million in lost revenue from visitors to national parks;
  • $11 million in lost National Parks and Smithsonian Institution revenue;
  • Payments owed to third parties the government was unable to pay accrued billions of dollars in interest;
  • Resources were placed on hold;
  • 1.2 million Internal Revenue Service (IRS) identity verification requests went unprocessed, causing a delay in private-sector lending and other activities;
  • Stalled U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USDA) approvals delayed or halted moving products to market.

Hopefully this won’t go on too long.

There have been 18 shutdowns since 1976.

The one in 2013 last two weeks.

Image credit: sokratis.it

Ted Millar is parent, poet, and teacher. His poetry has been in featured in myriad literary journals, including Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also an occasional contributor to Liberal Nation Rising.