What will happen if the government goes out: late wages, closed museums and more


With President Trump and Congress in a dead end on federal spending, the country is preparing for a partial closure of the government that will trigger offices, keep wages during the holiday season and influence the most famous tourist attractions nationwide.

Here is a guide to some of the questions people might have.

The whole government would shut down?

Not this time. About three-quarters of the federal budget was financed until September 2019, which includes the Pentagon, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services.

So, how many federal workers would be interested?

Quite a bit: the remaining quarter of the government that would lack funding includes the departments of state, justice, treasury, transportation and internal security. All in all, about 800,000 of the 2.1 million federal workers nationwide – or more than a third – would be affected in some way. Almost half would be sent home without pay, while the others would stay home.

When will people start to feel the impact?

This may take a few days. Even if the funding expires at midnight on Friday, this coincides with the start of what the federal government considers as a four-day weekend of vacation. Monday is Christmas Eve, which has been declared a party for federal employees, and Tuesday is Christmas Day. So Wednesday is when many of the real effects start to hit people.

What about my flight back from vacation?

If you are among the tens of millions of people who get on a flight for the next two weeks, do not worry: air traffic controllers and federal airline security inspectors will remain in the workplace.

The airport security checkpoints will remain fully staffed, a spokesman for the Transport Safety Administration said, although he added that those workers will not be paid. (The assumption is that they will be paid retroactively.) And for those of you taking the trains: Amtrak "will continue normal operation" during any short-term arrest, a spokesman said.

Who else remains at work?

A lot of people, including those who patrol federal prisons, have taken charge of the implementation of the immigration law, issuing weather forecasts and inspecting meat and poultry. The State Department will continue to issue passports and visas, although it has warned that such activities will "remain operational as long as there are sufficient taxes to support operations". The Food and Drug Administration will continue to review the drugs. Agents with FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will continue to work, as well as the Coast Guard, border patrol, immigration and customs authorities and national meteorological service experts, including the others.

What would not happen during the arrest?

A lot of federal activities. The Internal Revenue Service would be closed. At the Federal Communications Commission, calls to consumer services would remain unanswered. The Small Business Administration will close. Some structures would remain temporarily open, while others will close their doors.

Will the various Smithsonian museums remain open?

The Smithsonian, including the national zoo in the district, would use the remaining funds to remain open until January 1st. In his closing notice, the Smithsonian said that when the funds available will be exhausted, "it would be necessary for us to close all of the museum's buildings to the public." (A word of warning if you're reading this and planning a visit soon: Smithsonian museums they are always closed on Christmas Day.)

What happens to parks and national monuments?

They would remain open, but do not expect to find the visitor centers that actually welcome visitors. Historical houses and national monuments that close at night would be closed. If a pile of snow falls on a park with an area that needs plowing, the snow would remain still, the plows would remain parked and those spots would be inaccessible.

Will the mail continue to work?

People who send thank-you cards for Christmas gifts will still be able to send them by mail during a shutdown. Postal operations would not be affected by a closure and all post offices will remain open as usual, because the postal service finances its operations through its sales rather than tax dollars.

I am a federal worker. Are they paid?

Wages for the pay period ending on Saturday "should be issued in normal times (generally, in the period between December 28th and January 3rd)", said the budget office in a planning document.

The employees deemed essential, otherwise known as "excluded workers", who must work during the closure, will be paid for that time after the arrest, according to the indications given by the Personnel Management Office. For employees in isolation, however, it is up to the Congress if they are paid for the closing period; after each previous closure, the Congress passed a law requiring the payment of redundant workers.

Do federal workers have to enter even if they do not actually work?

Some will have to – at least in a short time. This is what is known as "orderly closure", during which employees who are licensed may be allowed to enter for up to four hours to preserve their work, finish the cards or deliver their phones issued by the government.

A person planning to stay out of office next week does not necessarily have to return to Wednesday for the "orderly closing" process. The Office of Management and Budget states that agencies can allow it to do so on the first day they were ready to return.

A moment. Even when the government goes out, can workers be expected to come back just to help shut it down?

What can we tell you? The federal government is an extravagant venture.

Damian Paletta, Ashley Halsey III and Brian Fung contributed to this relationship.


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