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What does it mean to shutdown the government?

The Senate voted Monday to end the government shutdown, extending funding for three weeks, following a deal being reached between Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell regarding assurances related to immigration. Though, we want you to be incredibly aware on what exactly a shutdown here goes.

AGHGHGHGHGH we're going down! We have no government! We have no military! We have no food! Am I still breathing!? We're done for!
Not quite. While a shutdown isn't good for the country or federal employees, it also doesn't necessarily mean that every federally funded agency, program, and service closes up shop. (And it doesn't cause us to immediately lose the war we're not even fighting with North Korea)
Here's whom it affects and how:

"Nonessential" Employees

Federal employees at agencies and departments that are considered "nonessential" are not allowed to work until Congress passes a new funding bill - they are instead placed on furlough. They are allowed to do "minimal activities as necessary to execute an orderly suspension of agency operations," but nothing else, even on an volunteer basis.

When the government shut down in 2013, there were about 850,000 government employees furloughed, all of whom spent weeks without pay and without knowing when they'd return to work. Not a pretty picture. That, in turn, affected everyday civilians because many "nonessential" services are actually pretty essential to certain individuals, just not the safety of the nation as a whole.

Example of activities and places that will shut down:

  • Many national parks (up to 417), zoos and the Smithsonian museums
  • The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
  • The IRS
  • The processing of applications for passports and visas
  • National Institutes of Health programs such as enrollments in experimental treatments
  • The maintenance of U.S. government websites (yeah, those can actually get worse...)
  • Mortgage approvals may be delayed due to furloughs at the IRS and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
  • BRIGHT SPOT: Approvals for drilling applications at the Bureau of Land Management

"Essential" Employees

"Essential" employees - those in jobs that involve the safety of human life, the protection of property, or other types that are deemed necessary - are expected to continue working. Agencies and services like the military, the postal services, and social security are too essential to public safety to stop working, so they will continue to function.

There is, however, a MAJOR CATCH: While "essential" employees are required to work during a shutdown, their salary is deferred and they are not paid until Congress resolves the shutdown and passes a budget or resolution. That means they work without pay, which may not be a big deal when the shutdown is a few days, but matters greatly if it lasts a few weeks or months.

Examples of activities that continue:

  • The military, sort of. In general (no pun intended), members of the military still report for duty, but some employees may not be paid. Civilian Department of Defence workers do not work during a shutdown.
  • Special investigations continue - (Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team will still be able to continue it's Russia investigation.)
  • The Postal Service, since it has its own funding stream that is not tied to Congress' yearly budget
  • Social Security and Medicare
  • Food Stamps

How did we get to this point?

Children, that's how. (No, not just the government acting like them.) There are two major issues left unresolved in the budget, and both are playing a major factor the gridlock.

  • DACA. There is still no fix in place and the March 5th deadline is creeping up on us. Democrats/all people with hearts have said that passing a DREAM act is a condition of them voting for the new budget. Trump agreed...then he didn't.
  • CHIP. The 9 million adorable, wonderful, helpless children who depend on this program remain in a state of flux. Democrats would like to fix this in the next budget, factions within the GOP would rather we not.

Take a deep breath. It's gonna be okay.