If House Speaker Kevin McCarthy fails to reach a federal budget deal with the most extreme members of his caucus that can pass both Houses by midnight on Sunday, January 30, the federal government will have to shut down. its doors: something that has not happened since 2018.
The inability of Republicans in Congress to agree on financing the operation of the federal government has forced the launch of the planning process to stop its non-essential functions.
What is the procedure for ceasing operations of a government department or agency in the event of a government shutdown?
- The Office of Management and Budget issued a notice last Friday to senior officials of the various departments and agencies of the federal government to begin preparations to implement their closure plans.
- These plans are not uniform. They respond to the functions, characteristics and needs of each department.
- In general, they specify how many employees would be suspended and which are considered essential and must work without pay.
- The plans also indicate how long it would take to stop the operations of each department or agency in the hours before a closure and which of their activities would stop completely.
Federal government employees, the first affected by a government shutdown
- The federal government’s nearly 4 million employees will be immediately affected by the government shutdown.
- Some will continue in their jobs, while others will have to be furloughed for the duration of the closure. None of them will receive their salaries no matter how long it takes Congress to resolve the situation.
- The longest government shutdown to date was in the winter of 2018, when the federal government ceased operations for 35 days, between December 22 and January 25, 2019.
- The shutdown will affect everyone’s personal finances, affecting things like their mortgage payments, cash availability, and accumulation of credit card debt. Many federal officials live paycheck to paycheck, with little savings.
Air travel could also be affected
- Tens of thousands of air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel, who are all federal employees, will be required to work without pay.
- Depending on the duration of the closure, many of them could quit their jobs to seek other forms of livelihood, as happened in 2018.
- According to the White House, travelers could experience “significant delays and longer wait times at airports across the country.”
- According to CNN, according to the State Department’s guidance for 2022, some passport facilities could close, making it impossible for people with expired passports to go abroad.
People receiving food assistance will feel the effect of the closure
- According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP (food stamps), will receive benefits through October, but it is unknown what will happen after that.
- USDA does not have sufficient funds for normal operations of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
- Food banks across the country will not be able to place new orders and some orders already placed could be disrupted.
- Federal reimbursements to community programs such as Meals on Wheels, an organization that delivers meals to more than 2.8 million seniors annually, which warned that it could be forced to temporarily suspend operations.
Impact of closure on the economy
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that in the event of a government shutdown it will stop publishing data, making it difficult for investors and the Federal Reserve to interpret the progress of the US economy.
- The Small Business Administration would not make new loans to any entity, according to 2021 guidelines.
A government shutdown would impact government healthcare services.
- Health services dependent on the federal government will also suffer serious consequences. While emergency public health measures and response to disease outbreaks will continue, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that “other public health activities will operate at a reduced capacity.”
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “may be forced to delay food safety inspections for a wide variety of products across the country,” according to the White House.
- The same would happen with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which “would be forced to limit workplace inspections,” putting worker safety at risk.
- The Environmental Protection Agency would halt most of its inspection activity at hazardous waste sites and drinking water and chemical facilities, putting drinking water nationwide at risk.
Effects of closures on education
- The Department of Education previously warned that there could be “some level of disruption” to large student aid programs, including scholarships.
- Operations such as processing free applications for federal student aid, payments for federal direct student loans and grants, and servicing of federal student loans may continue for a very limited time or may experience disruptions.
- Schools could face disruptions in federal funding, with the Department of Education warning that a delay of more than a week would “severely cut cash flow for school districts, colleges and universities.”
Housing assistance will feel the effects of a federal government shutdown
- Tens of thousands of low-income renters who rely on the federal government to pay rent could be affected in the event of a government shutdown.
- In 2019, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) was unable to renew approximately 1,700 leases to poor, elderly or disabled Americans, who would have to dip into their savings to cover any shortfall.
- While this doesn’t necessarily mean landlords will begin eviction proceedings immediately, they could delay repairs or suspend services they provide, such as transportation, after-school childcare, or social programs.
Research and warnings about natural disasters will be affected one month before the end of hurricane season
- Numerous government agencies involved in natural disasters would be forced to cease those efforts during a government shutdown.
- Among them is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which would have to cease “most research activities.”
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