D-Day! The Affordable Care Act (ACA) or Obamacare is finally in motion and there are tons of Republicans who are up in arms about its passing. A partial shutdown of the U.S. government began shortly after midnight on Tuesday, when the two houses of Congress could not see eye-to-eye on a budget. The Republican-led House of Representatives only agreed to compromise on the budget if there was a delay to the start of Obamacare, the President’s signature healthcare reform plan.
What Is a Government Shutdown?
A total of about 800,000 federal employees will not be clocking in to work as government departments no longer have free funds to pay them.These employees might not be given a check when they return either.
Shutdowns have lasted anywhere from five to 21 days in the past. When these shutdowns occur, only “essential” workers will continue to perform their duties (as outlined below), albeit with a delayed paycheck. These workers could receive retroactive pay if/when Congress decides to fund the government again, BUT the fractured nature of this Congress makes such a step unlikely.
Which Agencies Will Continue Their ‘Business as Usual’ Practices During the Shutdown?
Social security checks will continue to be sent out, and Medicare and other similar entitlements will go on as usual; employees who work for government functions “necessary to protect life” cannot shut their doors to the public, such as law enforcement, Homeland Security, Coast Guard, Secret Service, U.S. military, intelligence agencies, embassies, consulates that help Americans abroad, emergency medical care, border patrol, and emergency and disaster assistance. Then there are other agencies that have been deemed essential and that must remain open during government shutdowns: the banking system, operating the power grid, federal air traffic control, unemployment benefits, and food stamps programs. The agencies that have independent funding, such as the U.S. Postal Service and the Federal Reserve, will also remain open.
The federal courts will continue to operate until the 10th business day of a shutdown, and at that point, they will begin to furlough non-essential employees. Court cases will, however, continue to be processed. It will be business as usual for the U.S. Supreme Court as well.
The school federal lunch program will hopefully remain unaffected by the shutdown as schools are reimbursed for these costs on a monthly basis and are allowed to carry over funds from the previous fiscal year. According to the USDA, most schools should be fine, as far as the lunch program is concerned, through the month of October.
Congressional members can also chose to report to work during a shutdown since their salaries are written into permanent law, however, they, too, will get divided into essential and non-essential personnel — and the latter could wind up being sent home.The President has 90 personal aides and only 15 of them will remain on the job during the shutdown.
President Obama will also continue to receive a paycheck during the shutdown as his $400,000 salary falls under mandatory spending, however, his paycheck could be delayed as well if furlough’s begin to affect the government’s payroll processing departments.
NASA will furlough almost all of its employees but Mission Control employees in Houston will stay put as well as those at the International Space Station.
The National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center will continue to operate as usual.
The IRS will continue as usual to collect taxes and will process 2012 extensions, which have an expiration date of October 15th. Folks, however, should expect a delay in their tax refunds.
The State Department will continue their red tape processing of foreign applications for visas and U.S. passports.<
The Department of Veterans Affairs will run their offices in the usual manner, because their monies are approved a year in advance by lawmakers for their healthcare programs. However, those vets who are appealing denials of disability benefits will unfortunately have to wait for a response after the shutdown.
Which Agencies Will Actually Get Shut Down and How Am I Affected?
The list of government agencies that will actually close their doors during the shutdown is practically endless but you can check the contingency plans of each one posted at the White House Office of Management and Budget website. Meanwhile here are some examples of how the shutdown will personally affect you:
- More than 400 national parks and museums will close, including such tourist hot spots as Yosemite National Park in California, the Statue of Liberty In New York City, the Smithsonian Museum in D.C., and Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.
- The National Institutes of Health, the nation’s medical research agency based in Bethesda, Maryland, won’t be accepting new patients or begin any clinical testing.
- e-Verify, the system that allows companies to check on the legal work status of an employee, will cease.
- Federally backed loans will not be available. “Federal loans for rural communities, small business owners, families buying a home will be frozen,” President Obama said Friday.
- IRS taxpayer assistance hotlines and walk-in centers will be closed. All audits are also suspended (good news for many).
- As far as the Women, Infants, and Children’s Program, WIC, no monies will be available to pay the administrative costs.
- Social Security will continue sending out those checks, BUT if you need replacement cards or need to schedule hearings for disability cases, you are out of luck!
- New gun permits will not be processed.
- Federal occupational safety and health inspectors will stop workplace inspections except in cases of imminent danger.
Now the clock has started on the government shutdown, and reportedly, the feds will run out of money to pay its bills by October 17th if Congress refuses to give in on an increase to the nation’s $16.7 billion debt ceiling. Obama has said he won’t budge on this point either.