It seems probable that the government will shut down at 12:01 tomorrow morning. The question for most of us is, how will this impact our lives?
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The bottom line is that no one knows, entirely, the full impact of a government shutdown on the average American worker. It’s been 17 years since the last time this happened, and a lot has changed since then. Gregory Korte at USA Today points out:
“Every shutdown is different. The politics that cause them are different. Because of technology and structural overhauls, the way the government functions has changed since 1996. Much of what will happen is unknown.”
Here are a few things we know for sure:
1. It’s not a complete shutdown.
Korte and others are careful to point out that this is a partial shutdown. That doesn’t mean that every single function of the government will cease at one minute after midnight tonight. The shutdown would affect non-essential government functions.
2. Who gets paid and who doesn’t?
If you work for the Smithsonian or the National Parks Service, you’re temporarily out of work as of Tuesday. At least 800,000 civilian federal workers are expected to be furloughed. It’s possible that those workers would be given back pay after operations resume, but not guaranteed.
If you’re a member of the U.S. military or an essential federal employee, you still have to show up to work, but you probably won’t get paid until the shutdown comes to an end.
If you’re a Congressperson, on the other hand, you’ll be paid as usual.
3. If your check comes from the government, you might get paid, but more slowly than usual.
Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment checks are supposed to process as usual. VA benefits would continue in the short-term, at least, although the Veteran’s Administration says that a month-long or longer shutdown could slow or stop payments temporarily.
4. Is your check, literally, in the mail? You’ll still get it.
The U.S. Postal Service isn’t tax-funded, so mail service should be unaffected.
5. Obamacare will continue.
Barring a last-minute agreement to suspend signups for a year, as the House has requested, you’ll still be able to sign up for health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace tomorrow, as scheduled.
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