Countdown to Shutdown: Questions of the Government Shutdown Answered

With the fiscal year ending midnight tonight, reports suggest a federal government shutdown is likely to happen. How will this affect you? Why is this even happening? Citizens and lawmakers alike remain confused as to the implications a shutdown will have on our everyday lives. Here is what we know about the shutdown:

When does a shutdown occur? A shutdown usually occurs when the government no longer has the ability to spend money because Senate and Congress cannot agree on a spending bill for the next fiscal year. During this time, unessential government employees and programs are temporarily cut.

Why would a shutdown happen now? House Republicans insist that the spending bill for next year include a mandate to cut funding to Obamacare. Senate Democrats disagree just as strongly. As long as they cannot pass a spending bill for the next fiscal year, it is likely that the government will undergo a shutdown.

When would this shutdown occur? Tonight at midnight, (Oct. 1) the beginning of the next fiscal year.

What kinds of programs could be temporarily cut during the shutdown? National parks, museums, and archives would likely close. Veteran benefit checks would be delayed. It is not likely that you will be able to get a passport at that time. Social Security benefits will not be affected and all military functions will continue.

What would happen to government employees? More than 800,000 out of about 2.1 million federal employees will be sent home. Only “essential” employees, such as lawmakers and military servicemen and women, will continue to work. All other employees deemed non-essential, such as park rangers, and museum staff, will be sent home and most likely will not be paid for their time off. However, it also is unlikely that essential employees who work during the shutdown will be paid.

Would a government shutdown stop Obamacare from happening? Nope. Obamacare was already signed into law. Also, the key functions of Obamacare rely on mandatory spending, which would not be affected if a shutdown occurs.

How long do shutdowns usually last? Only a couple of days. The longest shutdown was 21 days (which happened back in 1996 during the most recent government shutdown) while some last less than a day.

What about the debt ceiling? This is an issue in the shutdown because the government is on the verge of maxing out its spending and borrowing abilities. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said last week that the government would reach its borrowing limit by approximately Oct. 17. If the government reaches its borrowing limit, government spending could hit the debt ceiling, possibly causing the nation’s first default. This would create a whole slew of issues if the government would still be shutdown at that date.

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