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What services are likely to stop during a government shutdown?

Senate will vote today on stopgap measures to avoid the shutdown. Find out which services are likely to stop in case there's a failure to reach agreement.

 A view of the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday evening September 28, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress continues to work on a continuing resolution to avert a government shutdown before a Friday deadline, a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, and a $3.5 trillion soci
Drew AngererAFP

Despite frantic last minute talks to avert a government shutdown, it looks like there is still a possibility the politicians are going to fail to reach an agreement. So what could happen?

In spite of each federal agency, along with the Office of Management and Budget, having their own way of takling a shutdown, all the plans have something in commo: all essential services will continue.

Meanwhile, the individual services that would stop until the funding is renewed are subject to each federal government agency's criteria.

Essential services and mandatory programs set to continue

Air traffic control, In-hospital medical care, border protection, law enforcement and power grid maintenance were some of the public essential services maintained during the previous shutdowns in 2018 and 2013, and would be expected to keep running if the shutdown becomes inevitable Friday.

Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are among the mandatory spending programs that would continue to operate despite the likely delays, according to the Social Security Administration.

"The Administration will work with both sides on Capitol Hill to fund the government and keep its vital services and functions operating," said the SSA in a statement to AS USA Wednesday.

"Our contingency planning for the potential funding lapse is to continue services associated with the White House’s statement that Social Security benefits will continue to be paid."

Do we know what services will stop?

The answer is no. We can have an idea based on previous shutdowns, but as mentioned before, each contingency plan is set under each federal administration's criteria, therefore, some changes are expected to be seen in the following days.

"It’s never clear until a shutdown which services will pass the absolutely necessary test," President of the nonpartisan think tank Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget Maya MacGuineas said.

“But one thing is for sure, a lot of people will go home and won't be doing their jobs and that slows down the process of just about everything,” she added.

What might I not be able to do?

Buy a house

People looking to sell or buy new homes will most-likely be among the ones which will be kept in standby until further notice. Federal Housing Administration inquiries regarding changes in mortgage and refinanciation are also expected to stop being issued.  

Get a loan or technical assistance for a small business

This is something we have seen frozen for as long as previous shutdowns have lasted, and is likely to happen again if the government shutdowns.

Attend national parks

Despite some of the park gates remaining open during the last shutdown in 2019, visitor services and park maintainance stopped running, causing overflowing trash and damage to the parks. Following this unpleasant experience three years ago, in addition to the fact that the 2013 shutdown kept parks closed, national parks could possibly close completely this time to avoid further problems.  .

Get farm assistance

If you are seeking help from your local or statewise farm service centers, you should know they will most-likely close during the shutdown, which means that no-one will be there to answer anypossible questions farmers could have on program signing.

Renew your passport

Things as simple and necessary as renewing your passport could be a difficult task for those who need to do so during the shutdown. As the State's Department services that issue the passports are not fully funded by Congress, but partly rely on fees, they might be able to continue their job for a short period of time, but the lack of workers could delay your appointment for even longer than the shutdown lasts for.

A recommendation would be for you to check your passport expiry date, and if you need a new passport soon put in your request now because it's not known how long this is going to last and significant delays could be a problem if your passport issuance is urgent.

Attend Smithsonian museums

The White House has previously closed Smithsonian Institution museums through the last two shutdowns, as well as National Zoo in Washington.

Civil litigation, payments to victims and training for state and local law enforcement stop during a shutdown.

Other public areas to be potentially afected by the shutdown

Social Security and Medicare

As mentioned, payments for both will continue, but with potentially long delays, while benefit verification and card issuance will freeze.

Travelers exit from the International arrivals door at Miami International Airport on September 20, 2021 in Miami, Florida. The U.S. government announced that it will ease airline restrictions on travel into the United States for people who have vaccinati
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Travelers exit from the International arrivals door at Miami International Airport on September 20, 2021 in Miami, Florida. The U.S. government announced that it will ease airline restrictions on travel into the United States for people who have vaccinatiJOE RAEDLEAFP


Air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration will carry on working in the same way they did in other shutdowns, however, airport slowdowns will be inevitable.

Food inspections

In the same way as SS payments, The Food and Drug Administration are also expected to experience inspection delays.

The Post

The American Postal Service will carry on running, however, the service has reportedly confirmed earlier this week, that "delivery standards would slow for some patrons beginning on Friday."

"Mail traveling the greatest distances will be most affected, with a day or two of transit time added for some first-class mail and periodicals," the agency said.

Health and Human Service

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) might not be allowed to process grant applications or admit new patients.



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