What Happens In the Case of a Government Shutdown?

government shutdown
At an August 22nd campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona, President Donald Trump threatened to force a government shutdown in order to get the funding needed for his proposed wall along the US-Mexico border.

Government shutdowns are certainly nothing new. The last federal government shutdown was four years ago, lasting for 16 days. Still, the President’s threats raised concerns among legislators and many others across the country. If the government did shut down, it would be the first time it happens under Republican control of the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives.

So just what does happen when the government shuts down? Here is what you need to know.

A Government Shutdown

A government shutdown occurs when funding for federal agencies and programs expire. The President and Congress must work to approve a new budget. However, if additional funding isn’t approved in time to continue government operations, the government shuts down. When this happens, government agencies are required to stop operating, though there are a few exceptions.

When the government shuts down, over 800,000 federal workers go on furlough as several services administered by the federal government grind to a halt. This includes but is not limited to:

  • IRS processing of paper tax refund (they’d also pause on conducting audits)
  • Approvals of loans by the Federal Housing Administration
  • National Parks would close
  • Government contracts and non-essential Government personnel will not be paid
  • The approval of small business loans would be suspended
  • The Smithsonian Institution would be affected

Don’t worry, several functions will still continue, including:

  • The US Armed Forces
  • Customs, Police activities, and Federal Law Enforcement
  • Departments crucial to Life, Health & Safety such as air traffic control and national security
  • Agencies and services that are self or previously funded such as the US Postal Service and Medicare billing

What Might Happen This Time?

Lawmakers will have until September 30th to pass additional funding for federal agencies and programs. If that does not happen, the government runs out of money on October 1st.

The President has made it clear that any spending bill must contain funding for construction of a border wall. If that doesn’t happen, some Republicans may refuse to support any sort of budget resolution.

If Congress can’t agree on a budget, and you’re a government employee, you might find yourself with some extra time on your hands starting in October. You can still hop on a plane and take a trip, but if you were planning on going to Yosemite or to visit the Museums of the Smithsonian, you might consider alternate plans…like spending all that extra time playing quizzes on Sporcle.