Government shutdown: what services may or may not be affected

Americans, including hundreds of thousands of federal employees, could soon feel the impact of a US government shutdown. If lawmakers do not reach an agreement by the end of Thursday, the last day of the fiscal year, the federal government will shut down. officially at 12:01 am on Friday.

Congress is one step closer to a shutdown after Senate Republicans blocked a bill Monday night finance the government at current levels and suspend the debt ceiling.

Most Americans would notice the disruption in one form or another. Many national parks are likely to close, while home and other loan applications could be delayed because the IRS could stop verifying income and Social Security numbers, according to the Committee for Responsible Federal Budgeting (CRFB), a non-profit group that focuses on tax issues. .

Government services that are considered essential, usually tasks important to national security and safety, such as border protection and air traffic control, would continue despite the closure. But the disruption would come at a delicate time, with many Americans struggling to regain balance amid the ongoing pandemic and the economy grappling with the effects of the crisis. COVID-19 Delta variant.

“Every closure is different – there is a lot of discretion in agencies about what they can continue to do,” said Marc Goldwein, senior director of policy at CRFB. “Anything that is not essential has to stop, but there are different definitions of essential work.”

For example, there are questions about whether work on COVID-19 vaccines at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Protection would be considered essential. Pfizer on Tuesday said had submitted data to the FDA about its clinical trials of the vaccine in children ages 5 to 12.

The biggest impact can be felt by the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who are likely to be left without a permit if a shutdown occurs, experts say.

“It has 2 million civilian employees who are working hard across the country,” Max Stier, chairman of the nonpartisan think tank Partnership for Public Service, told CBSN. “He has told everyone that there may be a shutdown; that means they have to stop working on things like [Montana] train accident or dealing with the economic calamity caused by the pandemic. “

The showdown in Congress comes as lawmakers are also debating an increase in the nation’s debt ceiling, or “debt ceiling,” adding to potential political twists and turns. Here’s what you need to know if the government closes this week.

Are we facing a total or partial closure?

This would be a complete shutdown as Congress has yet to pass any funding bills. The latest shutdown, from December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019, was a partial shutdown as Congress had already enacted five of the 12 appropriation bills.

That means more federal agencies would likely be affected in a new shutdown. The partial shutdown in 2018-2019 was a record 35 days, reducing economic growth in the last three months of 2018 by $ 3 billion, the Congressional Budget Office Estimate.

What essential services would continue?

Each federal agency would have its own closure plan, which is coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget. Those efforts would determine which government activities would be halted until the political deadlock between Democrats and Republicans is resolved and funding is renewed.

But all essential services would continue. These are some of the services that have been maintained in previous closures, according to the CRFB.

  • Border protection
  • Hospital medical care
  • Air traffic control
  • Compliance with the law
  • Maintaining the electrical network

How many federal employees would be left without permission?

A full government shutdown would likely affect more federal workers than the previous partial shutdown in 2018, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said.

It could be similar in scope to the closures in 2013 and early 2018, when roughly 850,000 of the 2.1 million non-postal federal employees were laid off, the group estimated. In the 2018 episode, about 380,000 federal workers were suspended, according to the Association for Public Service.

Federal workers without permission cannot work during a shutdown and are not paid while they are out, but they would eventually receive back payments once the jam is cleared. But that disruption could have a broader economic impact, according to the American Federation of Government Employees public policy director Jacqueline Simon.

“It is not just the federal employee who suffers when there is no paycheck on payday, the owner is not paid,” he said. “The credit card company is not paid, utilities are not paid. They do not go to the supermarket and buy a lot.”

Would benefits like Social Security and Medicare be affected?

No, experts say. That’s because Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are mandatory spending programs, which means they are not subject to annual allowances.

But while the government would continue to make payments to Social Security beneficiaries and people covered by Medicare and Medicaid, other services could be disrupted.

For example, benefit verification and card issuance would stop during a shutdown, the group said. That could create problems for some, as verification of benefits is sometimes required when people apply for loans, mortgages, or other services that require proof of income.

Would the post office continue to deliver mail?

Yes, because the US Postal Service does not depend on federal tax money for its operating budget.

However, in an unrelated change, the delivery standards of the postal service it would slow down for some customers starting Friday, the USPS said Monday. That’s because of an ongoing operational review that postal director Louis DeJoy has said will halt billions of dollars in losses and put the agency on the path to profitability.

“Mail that travels the longest distances will be hit the hardest, with a day or two of added transit time for some first-class mail and periodicals,” the agency said. said.

Will the national parks be closed?

It’s possible. The National Park Service closed all of its parks to visitors during the close of 2013. But at the close of 2018, many parks remained open while park services such as garbage collection were stopped. No staff to maintain parks, some of the nation’s iconic parks suffered from overflowing garbage and harmful behavior such as illegal use of off-road vehicles.

Would the IRS continue to function?

If a closure occurs, the tax agency may not be able to provide its normal income verification service and Social Security numbers. That would affect mortgage applications and other loan approvals, as well as potentially delay loan processing, the CRFB said.

At the close of 2018, the White House promised that tax refunds would not be affected, reversing an IRS plan to stop checks during the gap. Despite that promise, the refunds did not go exactly as planned: “At least 26,000 suspended IRS employees were called to work during the close of 2018-2019 in preparation for tax season, but 14,000 did not show up work without pay, “said the CRFB.

Would food stamps be delayed?

Funding for the food stamp program, called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is mandatory, but the government’s ability to distribute the benefits to its 42 million beneficiaries could be affected, the CRFB said.

This is because an interim funding bill would be needed to authorize the Department of Agriculture to send benefits for 30 days after the start of the closing. At the close of 2018, USDA avoided that problem by paying food stamp benefits in early January 2019. Had it not done so before the 30-day window expired, the agency would not have been able to pay benefits in March. , according to the CRFB.

What else could be affected?

Many more government agencies and programs would be halted, although Americans are unlikely to be aware of many of the disruptions. As of the close of 2018, agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and NOAA had to suspend his work.

However, while Americans may not realize the disruption of agency programs in the event of a shutdown, such disruptions could have very real effects. For example, “In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency stopped inspections of 1,200 different sites that included hazardous waste, potable water, and chemical facilities,” said the CRFB.

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