The government shutdown starting October 1, 2013 is now upon us.  Not all government functions are disappearing – Social Security checks will still get mailed and veterans’ hospitals will stay open.  But many federal agencies have shut their doors, from the Environmental Protection Agency to hundreds of national parks.

Here’s a look at how the shutdown works.  There are parts of the federal government that need to be funded each year in order to operate.  Since Congress can’t agree on how to fund them, they have been closed down.

The laws and regulations governing shutdowns separate federal workers into “essential” and “non-essential”.  The Office of Management and Budget ordered managers at all federal agencies to conduct reviews to see which of their employees fall into each of these two categories.  In a shutdown, the essential workers stick around, and the non-essential workers are sent home.

Here’s a look at how Government services are being affected:

BENEFIT PAYMENTS:  Social Security and Medicare benefits keep coming, but there could be delays in processing new disability applications.  Unemployment benefits still go out.

MAIL:  Deliveries continue as usual because the U.S. Postal Service receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations.  It relies on stamps and other postal fees to keep running.

MILITARY:   The 1.4 million active-service military members will get paid no matter how long the shutdown lasts.  That’s because the House and Senate passed a bill to guarantee active-duty military pay even when the government is closed.   About half of the Defense Departments’ civilian employees have been furloughed.

VETERANS SERVICES:  Most services offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs continue because lawmakers approve money one year in advance for the VA’s health programs.  Veterans are still able to visit hospitals for in-patient care, get mental health counseling at Vet centers or get prescriptions filled at VA health clinics.   But those veterans appealing the denial of disability benefits will have to wait longer for a decision.

HOMELAND SECURITY:  The majority of the Department of Homeland Security’s employees are still on the job at the country’s borders and ports of entry.  This includes members of the Coast Guard, Transportation Security officers, Secret Service personnel and other law enforcement agents and officers.

AIR TRAVEL:   Federal Air traffic controllers stay on the job and airport screeners keep funneling passengers through security checkpoints.

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL:  The State Department continues to process applications for passports, since fees are collected to finance those services.  Embassies and consulates overseas continue to provide services to American citizens.

FEDERAL COURTS: They will continue operating normally for about 10 business days after the start of a shutdown.  It the shutdown continues, the judiciary would have to begin furloughs of non-essential employees.  But cases would continue to be heard.

HEALTH: Current patients at the National Institutes of Health will continue to receive care, but new patients are not being accepted.   The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is being limited in investigating disease outbreaks.

RECREATION: All national parks are closed.  Visitors using campgrounds or other park facilities were given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park.  At parks where access is not controlled by gates or entrance stations, people can continue to drive, bike and hike.

FOOD SAFETY:  The Food and Drug Administration is handling high-risk recalls, but has suspended daily routine inspections with the exception of Federal meat inspections.

FOOD ASSISTANCE:  School lunches and breakfasts continue to be served, and food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (or SNAP) continue to be distributed.

TAXES:  The Internal Revenue Service states that it has suspended all audits, but American still have to pay their taxes and file federal returns.  Got questions?  Sorry; all toll-free help lines are shut down.

SCIENCE:  The National Weather Service will keep forecasting weather and issue warnings and the National Hurricane Center continues to track storms.

The longer a shut-down goes on, the more it will be felt in day-to-day lives and in the economy as a whole.


Source:  Associated Press