FAQ: Do All Functions of Government Stop During a Shutdown?

functions of governmentThe United States government officially shut down at midnight on Friday, January 19. It’s not the first time the federal government has shutdown in the 21st century, and unless there are some radical changes in Washington, D.C., it won’t be the last time either.

As is traditional during government shutdowns, both parties believe the opposing party is 100% responsible for the shutdown. Republicans in the House of Representatives passed a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the government for four weeks, but the Senate failed to agree on a spending bill. The disagreement resulted in a government shutdown.

In any shutdown, the various functions of government could be in jeopardy. That’s why it’s important for citizens to understand what could happen in the days and weeks following the closure of the federal government. To address your questions, here are some FAQs about government shutdowns:

  1. Do all functions of government stop during a shutdown? — The federal government is a massive behemoth of an institution. While these numbers are always in flux, the federal government currently includes about 600 million acres of land, 1.3 million active-duty military members, about 1.8 million civilian federal workers, hundreds of national parks, and a $4 trillion budget. During a shutdown, non-essential services are put on hold, meaning many workers will be furloughed many services will be suspended, and many national parks will close. However, “essential services” such as the military will remain in service, at least in part, throughout the stoppage.
  2. What will happen to national parks? — Across the entire United States, most national parks, monuments, and museums will shut down. In total, CNN counts 417 national parks that could be closed during a shutdown.
  3. Will social security checks continue? — Social security checks will continue to be mailed out because this process is largely automated.
  4. Will new bills be passed? — When a shutdown is in place, there will be no bill passages or non passages. Typically, after a bill has passed, the president has 10 days to either sign or veto the enrolled bill, but not during a government shutdown.
  5. What will happen to members of the military? — For active-duty military members, they will remain on the job. Certain training missions, however, might be curtailed and military contracting would likely stop for the time being.
  6. Will air travel be affected? — Air traffic controllers, TSA officers, and Border Protection agents will remain on the job so air travel won’t be affected (for the most part).
  7. How much could a shutdown harm the U.S. economy? — The last government shutdown (in 2013) cost the U.S. economy approximately $24 billion.

In short, various functions of government will be directly affected by a government shutdown.