Skip to content Skip to footer

If US Government Shuts Down, Some Services Would Continue

(Photo: Tommy Ironic)

Washington – Social Security checks would still go out. So would tax payments and refunds for e-filed returns. Soldiers would remain on duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, and sailors off the coast of Libya. FBI agents would still work. Mail would be delivered.

Those are some of the services that would continue even if the federal government runs out of money at 12:01 am Saturday with no agreement to extend the budget.

But much of the government would shut down.

Roughly 800,000 federal employees would be furloughed, including many civilian workers in the Defense Department, much of the White House staff, and at least some of Congress's staff. National parks would close. Hand-mailed tax returns would go unopened.

With no agreement to finance the government past Friday night, government agencies Wednesday made contingency plans for what would stay open and what would close. Each of the three branches of government – the executive, legislative and judicial – made their own plans.

The key criteria for keeping government employees working is whether their office is critical to protecting life or property, or has another source of money, such as user fees.

Here's a list of how a shutdown would impact some parts of the federal government:

_ Military. Troops would remain on duty, receiving IOUs rather than paychecks. “They will continue to earn money during this period,” said a senior Obama administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity as a matter of White House policy. “But given that we don't have any money during this period of time, they will no receive paychecks.” They'd be paid retroactively once Congress and the president signed a budget deal.

_ Civilians at the Department of Defense. Those whose work helps protect life or property would keep working. Others would be sent home, apparently without pay. “We expect a significant number of DoD civilian employees would be furloughed,” the administration official said.

_ Internal Revenue Service. Income tax returns filed electronically would be processed. Payments would be collected. “We need to be able to collect the money that is owed to the U.S. government,” the official said. Refunds for e-filed returns also would be sent automatically. But paper-filed returns would not be processed, and refunds held until furloughed employees could return to work. Audits would be postponed.

_ Mail. The United States Postal Service would still deliver the mail, thanks to income from stamps. “We're self-funded,” said Postal Service spokesman Gerry McKiernan. “It's a normal day for us.”

_ Social Security. Checks would still be sent out to current beneficiaries, either through the mail or electronically. The Obama administration said final plans were still being prepared, and would not say whether the Social Security Administration would be able to handle claims for new beneficiaries.

_ Medicare. Would still make payments to beneficiaries “at least for a short period of time,” according to the senior administration official.

_FBI and other federal law enforcement. Would keep working.

_ White House. The president and vice president would keep working.

__ Air traffic. The Federal Aviation Administration refused to say whether it shut down air traffic, referring questions to the White House Office of Management and Budget. That office did not respond to questions.

Countdown is on: We have 10 days to raise $50,000

Truthout has launched a necessary fundraising campaign to support our work. Can you support us right now?

Each day, our team is reporting deeply on complex political issues: revealing wrongdoing in our so-called justice system, tracking global attacks on human rights, unmasking the money behind right-wing movements, and more. Your tax-deductible donation at this time is critical, allowing us to do this core journalistic work.

As we face increasing political scrutiny and censorship for our reporting, Truthout relies heavily on individual donations at this time. Please give today if you can.