Government is partially shut down. What exactly does it mean?

  • The Capitol is seen at day's end Friday in Washington.

    The Capitol is seen at day's end Friday in Washington. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 12/22/2018 7:42 PM

With President Donald Trump and Congress at an impasse over federal spending, a partial government shutdown started Friday night at midnight..

What does that mean? It will shutter offices, hold up paychecks during the holiday season and affect popular tourist attractions nationwide.

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

Will everything shut down?

Not this time. About three-quarters of the federal budget has been funded through September 2019, which includes the Pentagon, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services.

How many workers affected?

Quite a few: The remaining quarter of the government that will lack funding includes the departments of State, Justice, Treasury, Transportation and Homeland Security. All told, about 800,000 of the 2.1 million federal workers nationwide -- or more than a third -- will be affected in some way. Nearly half will be sent home without pay.

When will people feel loss?

That might take a few days. Even though the funding runs out at midnight Friday, that coincides with the beginning of what the federal government views as a four-day holiday weekend. Monday is Christmas Eve, which has been declared a holiday for federal workers, and Tuesday is Christmas Day. So Wednesday is when many of the real effects will begin to hit people.

What about my holiday flight?

If you're one of the tens of millions of people hopping a flight over the next two weeks, don't worry: Air traffic controllers and federal airline safety inspectors will remain on the job.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Who else stays on the job?

Lots of people, including those patrolling federal prisons, charged with immigration enforcement, issuing weather forecasts and inspecting meat and poultry. The State Department will keep issuing passports and visas, though it has warned that such activities "will remain operational as long as there are sufficient fees to support operations."

What will stop happening?

A grab bag of federal activities. The Internal Revenue Service will be closed. At the Federal Communications Commission, calls to consumer complaint hotlines will go unanswered. The Small Business Administration will close. Some facilities will remain open temporarily.

Smithsonian museums?

The Smithsonian, including the National Zoo in the District of Columbia, will use leftover funds to stay open through Jan. 1. In its shutdown planning notice, the Smithsonian said that when the available funding is exhausted, "it would be necessary for us to close all museum buildings to the public."

What about national parks?

They will stay open, but don't expect to find visitor centers actually welcoming visitors. Historic homes and national monuments that shut down at night will be closed. If a bunch of snow falls on a park with an area that needs plowing, the snow will stay put, the plows will stay parked and those spots will be inaccessible.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Will the mail keep operating?

People sending thank-you cards for holiday gifts will still be able to ship those out in the mail during a shutdown. Post office operations will not be affected by a shutdown.

Federal workers paid?

Paychecks for the pay period ending Saturday "should be issued at the normal time (generally, in the Dec. 28-Jan. 3 time range)," the budget office said in a planning document.

Employees deemed essential, otherwise known as "excepted workers," who must work during the shutdown will get paid for that time after the shutdown, according to guidance released by the Office of Personnel Management. For furloughed employees, however, it's up to Congress whether they get paid for the shutdown period; after every previous shutdown, Congress passed legislation mandating workers be paid.

Do federal workers have to come in even if they're not supposed to actually work?

Some will have to -- briefly, anyway. This is what's known as an "orderly shutdown," during which employees who are furloughed can be allowed to come in for up to four hours to preserve their work, finish timecards or turn in their government-issued phones.

A person planning to be away from the office next week does not necessarily have to rush back Wednesday just for the "orderly shutdown" process. The Office of Management and Budget says agencies can let them do that on the first day they were already set to come back. So, even when the government shuts down, workers are expected to come back in to help shut it down.

What can we tell you? The federal government is a quirky enterprise.

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