What Happens When the Government Shuts Down?


Quick Answer

A full federal government shutdown results in a large number of nonessential, or nonexcepted, civilian federal employees to be put on indefinite, unpaid leave. Federal employees who perform essential functions or emergency work related to human safety or the protection of property do not get furloughed.

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Full Answer

Nonessential government functions shut down or partially shut down. For example, the National Park Service closes its parks and museums, the Environmental Protection Agency almost completely shuts down, as do many other regulatory agencies. Essential government functions continue, such as air traffic control, border patrol and law enforcement, although there could be delays for their employees receiving their paychecks if a shutdown is prolonged.

Most federal agencies are at least partially affected, as they engage in both essential and nonessential functions, such as training and support which could be suspended. Some agencies and departments are not affected by a government shutdown, because they are either self-funded, such as the Postal Service, or because there are mandatory appropriations in place, such as the military, Social Security and the Department of Veterans Affairs. A government shutdown results in a significant effect on the country's economy as the lost wages of federal employees bring down the gross domestic product. The effects are felt hardest in Washington, D.C., where there is the greatest concentration of federal workers.

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