What Is and Isn’t Affected by the Government Shutdown

Home Off-Topic What Is and Isn’t Affected by the Government Shutdown


The federal government partially shut down two weeks ago, and if it continues another week longer it will officially be the longest such shutdown in United States history.

Some essential work, like mail delivery and law enforcement, is still being performed, but the shutdown has affected the operations of nine departments, including Homeland Security, Justice, State and Treasury, and several agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and NASA.

Much work has ground to a halt and about 800,000 government workers are feeling the effects. Less than half are on unpaid leave, while more than half are working without pay. Those who work can expect compensation after the funding is restored, but furloughed workers have no such guarantee.

[Government workers feel like ‘pawns’ in a political chess game.]

Here’s a brief look at some of the government functions that have been affected by the shutdown, and some that haven’t.

Transportation Security Administration employees at airports across the country have called out sick in increased numbers since the shutdown began. Many of them are responsible for screening passengers and baggage.

A union official said 150 T.S.A. workers called out sick on Friday at Kennedy International Airport in New York. The number of T.S.A. employees calling out sick at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport has been three times as high as usual, another union official said.

A spokesman for the T.S.A. said that a high number of workers calling out sick was not unusual around the holidays and flu season, but a federal official who spoke to The Times on the condition of anonymity said it seemed to be a coordinated protest. One union official said some of the workers might be looking for temporary jobs to make up for their unpaid wages.

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Yellowstone National Park in October.CreditJosh Haner/The New York Times

Many national parks are closed to visitors. While some have remained open with bare-bones staffing, or because states have stepped in to provide services, the National Park Service has warned that “access may change without notice.”

Take Joshua Tree National Park, about 130 miles from Los Angeles. It remained open after the shutdown, but closed on Wednesday, in part because the park service could not keep up with the mess left by visitors.

[Read more on how parks and museums are affected by the shutdown.]

“The park is being forced to take this action for health and safety concerns as vault toilets reach capacity,” the park service said. “In addition to human waste in public areas, driving off road and other infractions that damage the resource are becoming a problem.”

The limited staffing in some national parks raised concerns about visitors’ safety and the public disclosure of any incidents in the protected areas. In Yosemite National Park, a man died on Christmas Day after falling into a river, but the episode was not reported until this week because of the shutdown, a park service spokesman told Outside Magazine.

Museums have been affected by the shutdown, too.

The National Gallery of Art, all 19 Smithsonian museums, and the National Zoo were closed because of the shutdown. (“Essential personnel” remain on hand at the zoo to care for the animals.)

Fear not, older Americans: The Social Security checks are still coming. (And the Postal Service will still deliver them.)

That’s because the Social Security Administration received funding for the 2019 fiscal year back in September, according to Mark Hinkle, an agency spokesman.

“Social Security services and offices will remain fully operational, and Social Security benefits will be paid on time,” he said in an emailed statement.

[Read more on how power dynamics may shift in the newly divided Congress.]

Medicare and Medicaid are similarly unaffected.

Tens of thousands of law enforcement personnel are working without pay, including those who work for the F.B.I., the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Prisons, Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, and more, according to Representative Steny H. Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House. That is true of Border Patrol and Transportation Security Administration agents, too.

But, in other ways, the shutdown has started to gum up the nation’s criminal justice system. Proceedings in federal courts have slowed as government lawyers ask for delays. Federal district courts are still open, but their funding could run out as soon as next week.

[How the shutdown could turn a day in court into a four-year wait.]

According to contingency plans, about 85 percent of employees are still working at the departments of Justice and Homeland Security. At the Department of Housing and Urban Development, though, the vast majority of the approximately 7,500 employees are not.

The shutdown has had mixed effects on government investigations.

F.B.I. investigations will continue, according to the Justice Department’s shutdown plan, because “all operations of the F.B.I. are directed toward national security and investigations of violations of law involving protection of life and property.”

The office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, will also continue its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election because it does not rely on congressional action for funding.

At the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, some investigations are unaffected by the shutdown, but some investigative work has been discontinued until funding is restored.

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Thousands of veterans, active-duty members of the military, reserve personnel and supporters marching in Manhattan for the annual Veterans Day Parade.CreditDave Sanders for The New York Times

Under the shutdown, most I.R.S. operations have stopped. According to an official contingency plan covering the final weeks of December, only about 12 percent of the agency’s nearly 80,000 employees are working.

That plan does not make clear, though, what the I.R.S. will do as the shutdown continues. With tax filing season about to begin, the agency will no doubt face plenty of questions from taxpayers over the recent tax law changes.

[President Trump has remained silent on the plight of federal workers.]

The agency may bring in more workers to prepare for tax season, but it generally does not answer taxpayer questions or pay tax refunds during a shutdown, according to The Wall Street Journal.

As the shutdown began, Robert L. Wilkie, the secretary of veterans affairs, said in a statement that his department would be unaffected because it was already fully funded through the 2019 fiscal year.

“We thank the president and Congress for their commitment to our nation’s heroes in funding V.A., and stand ready to provide all of the V.A. benefits and services our Veterans have earned,” he said.

The 40 million or so people who receive food stamps will still get the benefit for January, according to the Agriculture Department, which administers the program. Other aid programs focused on child nutrition, including school lunch and breakfast programs, will also continue operating into February, the department said.

Food assistance programs for women, children and infants and for people on Native American reservations can continue to operate at the state and local levels, depending on what funding remains, but federal funds will not support those programs until the shutdown ends, the department said.

[Here’s how the shutdown leaves food, medicine and pay in doubt for Native Americans.]

Inspections of meat, poultry, eggs, grain and other commodities will continue, too, it said.

The Violence Against Women Act expired last month when the government shut down. First passed in 1994, the act helps survivors of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault with programs administered through the Justice Department and the Health and Human Services Department.

Those programs were already awarded grants, but grant payments will be delayed because the Justice Department was affected by the shutdown. After funding is restored, the department will process payment requests filed after Dec. 26.

“Local programs have other sources of funds,” said Monica McLaughlin, the director of public policy at the National Network to End Domestic Violence. “But when they are in a situation where they’ve done the work that is federally funded and they aren’t able to reimburse for it, it certainly puts them in a financial bind and can be detrimental to the programs.”

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