As a government shutdown looms in the future, many are wondering what would happen if the Federal government comes to a halt.
The clock is ticking for lawmakers, who have until March 4th to agree on a new budget or pass a short-term resolution to keep the government working. Contingency plans have been in place for this type of situation since the 1980s to keep essential government agencies working and total chaos from taking over. Law enforcement, military, and others protecting lives and property will continue to work. Lawmakers can also designate certain offices to continue working at a reduced level.
In 1995, the government shut down for five days and furloughed 800,000 employees without pay. The shutdown in 1996 lasted three weeks and sent over 280,000 employees home without pay. In both cases, employees collected pay after a budget was passed but this is at the discretion of Congress.
The Social Security Administration would be affected and could delay checks and new claims. They are responsible for sending out benefit checks each month. The majority of the check releasing process is computerized but humans are required to complete the procedure and process new claims.
All services for veterans will be cut as they are considered non-essential to the running of the government.
If you are planning a vacation that involves a national parks or museums, you might want to wait until the Federal budget is settled. The status of 368 National Parks and museums all over the country is up in the air. In 1995 and 1996, more than 7 million visitors were turned away because of park closures. This would significantly reduce travel and tourism dollars for the states. Passport and visa processing would also stop during a government shutdown. In 1996, after they started working again, the closure created a backlog of applicants which created a longer wait time for new documents.
Law enforcement agencies, although they would continue to work at a reduced level, would still be affected. During the last shutdown, recruiting programs, plus the hiring and testing of new agents was canceled. Licensing from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms was also delayed. Border patrol units were cut back to essential personnel only.
According to a report by ABC News, all types of services stopped including new patient acceptance into clinical trials, toxic waste cleanup, and some White House employees were sent home.
Neither side wants to take credit or be considered the cause for a government shutdown. In 1995, the government mess cost the taxpayers somewhere between $750 million and $2 billion dollars and the Republicans took a huge hit to their approval rating.
What hardships will our elected officials cause the American people as they argue over what projects to cut and which to fund? What will this do to our extremely fragile economy? We will all know on March 4th.
Photo Credit: Bobby Mikul