The National Mall and museums would shut down, though "essential" government agencies will still function during a shutdown. Image: Flickr / dougtone / CC-BY-SA

With only two days until the end of the current placeholder budget, a federal solution still has not been reached. The possibility of a federal government shutdown in 2011 is seeming more real each day. How this shutdown would affect individuals varies greatly.

Basics of a federal government shutdown

If no spending bill is passed by congress come Friday, the federal government will technically be in shutdown mode. In practice, individual employers will decide which employees are excepted from the shutdown and which ones are subject to furlough. Employees that are excepted will still be required to come into work but will not receive paychecks. Excepted employees are usually those required for the safety and security of the nation — the CIA, FBI and military.

Agencies that will still function

If the government shuts down, some federal agencies will still function relatively normally. The United States Postal Service is a self-funded agency, so mail will continue to be delivered and employees will be paid. Air traffic control, social security, veterans services and the military would continue to function mostly unchanged, but employees’ paychecks will not be issued during that time. Each of these agencies is forming a “shutdown plan” that will guide how they handle the shutdown period.

What would shut down

Though essential functions of the government would continue, there are many everyday interactions most people have with the government that would cease. Passport offices would shut down entirely. IRS offices would also be reduced to just a skeleton crew — meaning paper returns would not get processed, the IRS helpline would go dead and all auditing would cease until funding returns. The April 18 deadline to file taxes, however, would remain in place. The Federal Housing Administration and Small Business Administration would suspend the review and approval of loans for new homes and small businesses. National parks and national monuments, including museums, would also shut down entirely. None of these services would return to operation until a budget is approved. Back pay for employees would have to be approved in a separate act of Congress.


Congressional Research Service:
Office of Management and Budget:

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