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Government Shutdown: What It Means to You

This story was updated on April 8, 2011
With just hours to go before a possible government shutdown, negotiations are continuing over a budget agreement. Unless Congress agrees to a plan by tonight, or passes yet another stopgap measure, the US national debt will reach the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling limit, forcing the government to shut down. Democrats say the only sticking at this point is that Republicans want to strip all government support for Planned Parenthood. If the government does shut down, some federal departments will go completely dark, while others may only partly close. I discussed the impact of a government shutdown on TV Wednesday morning:}


If you are a government employee, you can find official guidance here or in this FAQ from the Washington Post.

Generally speaking, if the government shuts down, here's what would happen and who would be affected:

  • A large portion (maybe half) of the 1.9M non-essential civilian government workers will be furloughed
  • Some furloughed employees may become eligible for unemployment--you need to contact your state and the Labor Department's "Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees"
  • Soldiers, security personnel and intelligence workers considered ESSENTIAL, though due to quirks in pay periods, there could be an interruption in pay
  • President, Congress and Presidential appointees get paid
  • IRS processes returns, delays refunds and suspends audits
  • Social Security checks go out as usual
  • USPS: Open and operating as usual
  • Museums/Zoos/Gardens/National Parks: Closed (lions & tigers fed!)
  • The Fed/FDIC/Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac: Operate normally, because they don't rely on Congressional funds
  • NIH's disease hotlines and CDC surveillance will likely shut down; no new participants to clinical trials
One last note: economists say that a prolonged shutdown could act as a drag on the economy and traders will sell off stocks accordingly. Additionally, the impact on cash-strapped states could be significant, as federally funded programs could be delayed or stopped. Never a dull moment!

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