10 Ways a Government Shutdown Might Affect You – Even If You're Not a Federal Worker

Trash pickup, national parks, building inspections (and parking tickets) may be put on hold

More than a third of federal workers would be told to stay home if the government shuts down -- but even if you're not one of those facing a furlough, your daily life could be affected in ways you might not expect.

Formal furlough notices would be sent to affected workers on Tuesday, the beginning of the new fiscal year.

Services considered critical to national security, safety and health would go on as usual, such as border patrol, law enforcement, and emergency and disaster assistance. Active-duty military personnel are exempt from furloughs, as are employees of the U.S. Postal Service.

But the looming shutdown of the federal government would affect thousands of local D.C. residents and government workers because Congress oversees the city, and even those in the greater region may find some unexpected fallout.

10 Ways a Government Shutdown Might Affect You – Even If You're Not a Federal Worker

1. Trash Pickup and Parking Enforcement:

First, a few caveats: D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is attempting to help the city dodge a potential government shutdown by declaring all city workers essential -- and while his plan may be overruled, as of Monday morning, the federal Office of Management and Budget hadn't yet rejected Gray's declaration.

Additionally, D.C. has about two weeks' worth of money on hand that's already been authorized by Congress, which might be enough to wait out a fairly brief shutdown.

However, if the money runs out and Gray's plan is rejected, trash and recycling collections could be halted, as would street sweeping if the D.C. Department of Public Works has to shut down. That wouldn't just affect residents but also those who work or visit the city, including tourists who may be less than pleased to have their vacations marred by a growing rat problem.

On the plus side? No parking tickets. Parking enforcement officers would be staying home -- but watch your speed, because traffic officers will still be out.

2. D.C. DMV: 

No Department of Motor Vehicles equals no driver's license or identification card renewals, no change of address requests, and no pay for the employees who work there.

According to a memo from the Pentagon, "A lapse would mean that a number of government activities would cease due to a lack of appropriated funding. While military personnel would continue in a normal duty status, a large number of our civilian employees would be temporarily furloughed."

3. Daycare:

Daycare facilities in the greater region -- especially those that operate within federal buildings -- will lose a lot of essential business if a shutdown occurs, a U.S. General Services Administration official told News4.

While the daycares that operate within federal businesses are expected to remain open in the event of a shutdown, fewer children will be attending, and the loss of revenue could cause some of them to close.

4. Smithsonian Museums and the National Zoo:

All Smithsonian Museums and the Smithsonian's National Zoo would  close to the public, and about 90 percent of the Smithsonian's 6,400 employees would be furloughed, said spokesperson Linda St. Thomas.

Museum doors would remain closed on Tuesday morning, ruining vacation plans for thousands of tourists expecting to see the National Air and Space Museum or view art at one of the museum's galleries.

In addition, the zoo's wildly popular Panda Cam, which stars the zoo's five-week-old cub and her mother, would go offline, as would all other animal cams. The cams require government resources which are not deemed essential, a zoo spokesperson confirmed to NBC Washington Monday morning.

Essential personnel will still take care of the animals, of course.

5. National Parks:

A government shutdown would shutter national parks across the country, from Yosemite to the Shenandoahs, as well as those closer to home, like the National Mall, Lincoln Memorial and Constitution Gardens.

A contingency plan prepared in 2011 -- the last time a shutdown loomed -- said all 401 of the country's national parks would close and cease activities except for those necessary to respond to emergencies.

6. Passport Services:

During the 1995-96 shutdown, 20,000 to 30,000 applications by foreigners for visas went unprocessed each day, while 200,000 U.S. applications for passports went unprocessed, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service.

The good news this time around: The Bureau of Consular Affairs is now funded by fees rather than appropriated funds, so it will continue to operate, a spokesperson tells NBC Washington.

The bad news: Some State Department passport offices are located in federal buildings that may have to shut down due to a lack of building support staff. Applicants should check to see if their preferred passport office is open before visiting.

7. Social Security and Medicare Payments: 

Payments will still be mailed, but could be delayed due to a reduction in workforce. Additionally, new applications probably wouldn't be processed until the government reopens.

Active military personnel will still report to work, but when funds run out, payments may be deferred.

8. D.C. Public Libraries:

The city's library system would shut down, which would mean no access to books, DVDs, educational materials -- and no computer access for those who can't afford to have Internet service at home.

9. Building Inspections and Permits: 

The department that issues building licenses and permits, housing code inspections and construction permits in D.C. -- the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs -- would also be shut down.

This would affect small businesses, especially those who specialize in general construction, and could endanger the lives of people who live in potentially dangerous buildings.

10. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives:

Even if a government shutdown resulted in complete anarchy, if you don’t already have a gun permit, you probably won’t be able to get one. On the bright side, now may be the perfect time to start a bootlegging operation. 

Supervisors at government agencies began meetings Thursday to decide which employees would continue to report to work, and which would be told to stay home under contingency plans ordered by the Office of Management and Budget.

"Fifty percent of our members may be locked out of work altogether during this shutdown,'' said J. David Cox Sr., president of the American Federation of Government Employees. "Half will be expected to continue to work without a paycheck.''

Union officials said preparations for a possible shutdown have created anxiety and uncertainty among federal workers and among those who have an expectation of government services.

"Federal agencies have had to devote time and resources to develop yet another crisis plan, distracting agencies from their critical missions," said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. "And, if the government shuts down, the public will be further harmed by the loss of vital services people need and depend upon."

Federal courts plan to keep operations going for at least 10 business days in the event of a shutdown -- roughly through Oct. 15 -- using fees and other funds.

But after that, only essential work would continue and each court would determine what staff is needed, according to a Sept. 24 memo from U.S. District Judge John Bates, director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.

Federal jury trials should continue as necessary, the memo said, and staff performing essential work at federal courts would report to work without getting paid. They would be paid when appropriations were restored.

The Environmental Protection Administration would essentially be closed to most of its approximately 17,000 employees, except for those involved in shutting down systems, tasked with emergency cleanups, or doing legal work in ongoing federal cases, said John O'Grady, president of the local union of EPA employees in Chicago.

NASA is still working on shutdown plans, but the agency doesn't have a launch scheduled until Nov. 6, spokesman Bob Jacobs said. Nearly all but a few hundred of the space agency's 18,000 employees would be furloughed under a contingency plan outlined in 2011.

In past shutdown threats, the space agency considered essential the operations of the International Space Station, where astronauts and cosmonauts live, and planned to continue supporting the mission if the government had shuttered, Jacobs said.

The last shutdown, which took place during the Clinton administration, lasted three weeks, from Dec. 16, 1995, to Jan. 6, 1996.


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