The federal government shutdown is under way in earnest.
After Congress tried and failed to reach a deal over the weekend, huge swathes of the federal government have suspended operations and furloughed employees until a government funding bill is passed.
Not everything is affected. Post offices are still open and mail delivery continues. Social Security checks will still go out, as will veterans’ pensions and survivor benefits. And the Trump administration is encouraging agencies to remain open if they’re funded outside the annual appropriations process — so the Energy Department, for example, will remain open.
But many other functions are suspended. The Internal Revenue Service can process returns, for example, but it can’t issue refunds.
Here’s what we know so far about how the shutdown is affecting various agencies and services. A full list of contingency plans for federally funded agencies can be found here.
Social Security and Medicare
- Social Security: As a “program written into law,” the Social Security Administration will ensure checks keep going out. However, the agency might not have (and in the past has not had) enough staff to do things like answer phone calls or help recipients who need to change addresses. Disability payments will also continue as normal.
- Medicare: Medicare is unaffected, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Social safety net programs
- Payments for the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program will continue to go out.
- Medicaid is unaffected in the short term, as states have funding through the second quarter of 2018.
- A portion of Head Start Programs receive funding on the first of every month, meaning the impact of a shutdown will only be felt if it lasts until February 1. During the 2013 shutdown, federally funded Head Start preschools in six states closed their doors, impacting 6,300 low-income kids, according to a White House report.
- Food stamps and subsidized lunches are unaffected for now, but the US Department of Agriculture announced that funding will run out by the end of February or early March, if Congress doesn’t reach a deal to reopen the government. Food stamps and other federal nutritional programs are considered mandatory programs, but still require Congress to renew the funding every year.
The US Postal Service
- Post offices will remain open and postal workers will continue delivering mail, as the postal service is funded by independent sources of revenue.
National parks, museums, libraries, and zoo
- About two-thirds of national parks remain open, but with reduced services. Gift shop clerks aren’t working; restrooms aren’t being maintained, and trash isn’t being collected. Access could change without notice, and some parks aren’t open at all.
- Smithsonian museums are still open Monday, but it’s not clear what’s going to happen after that.
- The Library of Congress has been closed since Saturday.
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can process tax returns, but it won’t be able to issue tax refunds or perform audits or examinations (with some exceptions). Anyone looking to buy a house during the shutdown could see their mortgage applications delayed if the lender can’t verify IRS data.
- Hospitals operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs are unaffected by the shutdown.
- Veterans benefits are also unaffected. Military retirees’ and survivors’ benefits will continue to go out because they’re not affected by Congress’s annual funding process.
- The military falls under the “essential to national security” umbrella, along with Border Patrol agents and TSA screeners, and so military personnel still report to work.
- Members of the military are paid twice a month, so pay won’t be delayed unless the shutdown lasts beyond February 1.
- The National Institutes of Health cannot accept new patients for clinical research and answer hotline calls about medical questions. Patients currently in NIH hospitals will still be cared for.
- Indian Health Services clinics will continue to provide health care.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a significantly reduced capacity to respond to outbreak investigations, process lab samples, and maintain its 24/7 emergency operations center, but it continues its work on flu surveillance, the administration official said Friday.
- The Food and Drug Administration can’t conduct nonessential routine inspections or certain lab research; 42 percent of its workers are furloughed.
- Certain financial regulators, including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the US Commodity Future Trading Commission, have sent the majority of their staff home. While corporations will still be able to file documents, nobody will be around to look at them.
- The Environmental Protection Agency said in a letter to staff Friday that its operations will continue as normal through next week, even though its shutdown contingency plan calls for furloughing about 95 percent of employees. Other agencies conducting research on climate change, however, will not be open during the shutdown.
- The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is not funded through the annual appropriations process, will remain open.
- According to a memo from the director of the administrative office of the US courts, James C. Duff, the judiciary will not shut down, and all employees will be expected to return to work as normal on Monday.
- The judiciary has enough money to continue paid operations for approximately the next three weeks, or until February 9, 2018.
- This is a noted contrast to the 2013 shutdown, when the federal courts were already limping along on limited funds. That time, the judiciary ended up experiencing broad disruptions, including delays in bankruptcy and Social Security cases, condensed criminal calendars, cuts in building maintenance, and uncertainty over juror payments.
Air traffic control
The air traffic controllers responsible for making sure planes land and take off safely, as well as TSA agents, will continue work as normal. However, they won’t be paid until the government reopens.
Federal prisons and border control
These employees also fall under the “public safety” category, and workers are exempt from furloughs as a result.
During the 2013 shutdown, then-Mayor Vincent C. Gray was forced to dip into budget reserves and designate every one of the city’s employees as “essential” in order to keep the city up and running. Since then, however, Congress has given DC more budget autonomy, insulating it from the effects of a shutdown by allowing it to spend more of its budget as it sees fit.
“Our budget has a degree of separation from the Congress that it did not have at the time of the last shutdown,” Kevin Donahue, deputy mayor for public safety and justice, told the Washington Post in response to the threat of a shutdown this past April. “We believe, in the event of a shutdown, that there will be no effect on city services, nor will we need to take the extraordinary step of declaring all employees essential.”
Only federal landmarks and smaller, federally controlled parks in the city will go without trash collection. In 2013, the district ended up picking up the slack after an accumulation of garbage and rats prompted a rapid response.