Government Shutdown 201

We are exactly 6 hours away from a government shutdown. While you have probably heard or seen discussion about its impact, I’m here to answer some more nuanced, specific or awkward questions.

Some basics: The government is shutting down because Congress has not yet authorized it to spend money after September 30. House leadership has been trying to chip away at the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, as part of its authorization of fiscal appropriations, but the Senate is resisting. If this shutdown happens we have no idea how long it will last, but we do have an idea of how it will affect us.


Will my children or grandchildren still have to go to school?

Yes. While the federal government provides some funding for state and local public schools, they won’t need to shut down or feel the impacts for awhile. However, Head Start programs are funded by the federal government and an estimated 19,000 spots could be cut just on day one of the shutdown.


What will happen to the PandaCam?

Along with the rest of public access to the National Zoo, the much loved livestream of the pandas would unfortunately go dark. (But the animals will be getting fed and taken care of, don’t worry.)


How will the shutdown impact the most vulnerable?

Many of the programs for the most vulnerable, like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and SNAP (food stamps) are deemed essential and will keep running. However, there might be delays in checks due to reduced staffing, a significant inconvenience for those who rely on this assistance. Additionally, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which aids pregnant women, new mothers, and their children will stop granting all benefits on day 1. WIC serves over half of all infants in the US and halting WIC would be a large setback to those children and their families.

Additionally, 1 million federal employees all over the country, from janitors to congressional aides could be furloughed and without ways to pay for their rent or their groceries. Ironically, depending on the length of the shutdown, federal employees might be forced to rely on government funded social safety net programs.


I was planning on visiting the D.C. sights this week, should I cancel my trip?

Up to you. All of the popular Smithsonian Museums will be closed, as will the National Archives, Library of Congress and the Holocaust Museum. The monuments and memorials themselves, will still be “closed” but you can, of course, see them from a distance. However, mass transit will still be running, private museums like the Newseum and Spy Museum will be open and you can still walk around the mall.


I live and work in D.C., but I don’t work for the federal government. How will I be impacted?

Possibly not at all. While D.C. has a unique relationship with the federal government, Mayor Vincent Gray has deemed every single city employee as essential, a first for the District. He even stated he is willing to risk arrest for the action. Because of this there will be no break in any city services like trash collection, library hours or schools, pending an improbable legal showdown. So with the trains and buses running, all you might hear is that your government-employed friends are watching TV.


Will Congress still get paid?

Yes. Members of Congress —but only some of their staffers— are deemed essential employees and are paid during any shutdown.


If you are looking for more detailed information join us on October 9th for a webinar explaining the budget, farm bill and debt ceiling battles.

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Howie Levine

About Howie Levine

Howie Levine is an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. He is originally from St. Paul, MN where he is a member of Mt. Zion Temple. He recently graduated from Tufts University.


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