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What a government shutdown means to you

Government shutdown: Google Images
Government shutdown: Google Images

OK, let’s say there is no budget deal in Washington and the government shuts down the end of the work day Friday. What does that mean to us in Cook County?

First, the Post Office stays open. Second, essential federal personnel stay on the job, so you can expect the Border will remain in government hands. The Coast Guard will continue patrols as well. If you’re expecting a refund check from the IRS, you may not get it on time. However you’ll still need to get your tax forms in on time – postmarked no later that April 18.

Our U.S. Forest Service stations have not been notified yet if their personnel will be sent home. The state’s five National Parks and recreation areas would be shuttered. That means Grand Portage National Monument and Voyageur’s National Park.

If you’re due in Federal Court, you might be able to appear within the next couple of weeks as they continue to operate with funds on hand. Medicaid and federal food aid programs will likely continue, but Medicare payments to providers may slow down after a week or so.

Of course all educational, construction and military funding that comes from the federal government will cease.

In any shutdown, the government does not completely cease functioning. Activities that are essential to national security, like military operations, can continue. Air traffic control and other public safety functions are exempt from shutdowns. Federal prisons still operate; law enforcement and criminal investigations can continue.

During the shutdowns of 1995 and 1996, cleanup work on toxic waste sites was halted because contractors could not be paid and Environmental Protection Agency officials could not monitor cleanup work. Work on more than 3,500 bankruptcy cases was suspended, and the government took a break from going after deadbeat dads. Tens of thousands of passport and visa applications went unprocessed. The December 1995-January 1996 shutdown was the longest and lasted 21 days.