As Democrats and Republicans bicker over $30 billion, thousands of government employees fret over whether they can go to work on Monday. After the current continuing budget resolution expires at 12:01 a.m. Friday, all "nonessential" government employees will be sent home until Congress passes and the president signs a budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2011.
The problem is, no one knows exactly who is considered "essential." A senior administration official said about 800,000 federal employees would be prevented from working in the event of a shutdown. These furloughed workers would not be paid during the shutdown, zapping $1.1 billion out of the economy in unpaid wages for a week-long shutdown.
Military: Working Military personnel will continue to work but will not be paid during a shutdown. They should earn backpay once Congress passes an appropriations bill. A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill today to make sure members of the military would get paid even if the government shut down.
Postal Service: Working The government shutdown won't affect mail delivery or mail processing, as the Postal Service is self-funded. "We don't get any taxpayer money. So we are not part of appropriations process. We will carry on and do what we always do: Deliver the mail," said a Postal Service spokesperson.
Medicare: Working People will still receive Medicare benefits, paid for by an emergency trust fund. If, hypothetically, the shutdown were to last for many months, Medicare benefits would stop, but the odds of a shutdown that lengthy are slim.
Social Security: Working Payments will continue as usual.
IRS: Working, but Limited Services The tax deadline, April 18, will not change, but the IRS will not process any paper tax returns, which account for 30 percent of the total returns filed. Tax audits will be suspended, and trademark and patent applications could also be delayed. The IRS will, however, continue to collect tax money.
Department of Veterans Affairs: Working but Limited Services Veterans health services, benefits payments and cemetary services will not be affected because they are appropriated on a two-year cycle. Answers to e-mail and telephone inquiries, hiring, recruiting, training and fraud investigations will be suspended.
Airports: Working Air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration agents are considered "essential" employees.
Congress: Working Every member of Congress decides who on their staff is "essential" personnel. Many have said they will not furlough any of their staff members. Reps. Darrell Isa, R-Calif.; Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif.; and Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla.; all told Roll Call they would maintain their full staff in the event of a shutdown. Any staff members who are furloughed will not only be banned from the halls of Congress during the shutdown period, they will also have to turn off their office-issued BlackBerry cell phones.
Department of Homeland Security: Working But Limited Services Over 80% of the DHS workforce has been deemed to be "essential" personnel for agencies such as TSA, Customs and Border Protection, Secret Service, Coast Guard, FEMA and Immigration Customs Enforcement. The host of employees from intelligence analysts to cyber security officials are also considered "essential" and will continue working.