8 Questions You’re Too Embarrassed To Ask About The Government Shutdown

government shutdown 2019

Wikimedia Commons/Architect of the Capitol

The United States federal government shutdown has followed us into 2019, and for some, it might be confusing. Here’s what happened and what it means for you and those around you.

1. How long has the government shutdown been going on?

The U.S. government partially shut down on Saturday, December 22, 2018. It’s now entering it’s third week. As of Tuesday, January 8, this is the second longest government shutdown in history, only behind the government shutdown of 1995-1996, which lasted 21 days.

2. What caused the government shutdown?

According to The Wall Street Journal, the government shut down due to lawmakers failing to agree on a spending deal that decided whether to fund the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

3. Who does it affect?

According to Al Jazeera, the government shutdown affects more than 800,000 federal workers across nine out of 15 departments, as well as many federal agencies. These include the Department of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation and Treasury.

4. How does it affect them?

airport security workers

Flickr/U.S. Department of Homeland Security

While many workers within these departments are furloughed, AKA placed on temporary leave without pay, others have been deemed “essential” and are required to work without pay. Basically, all of these workers are not being paid either way, which causes many of the services provided to the public to also be put on hold.

5. How does this all affect me?

When federal services are put on hold, many other places shut down and close. So depending on your plans, the government shutdown could make life a little more difficult.

Transportation Security Administration workers, also known as the TSA, are not being paid. This change is creating delays for air travelers looking to board planes because many of these workers are calling out sick or just not showing up to work without pay. If you’re flying somewhere soon, be sure to give yourself more than enough time in the airport.

If you had plans to hike or take a trip to learn a little history, be mindful of where you’re going. Museums and national parks may also be closed or have limited service during the government shutdown. And if they are open, they may not have restrooms open or employees there to help customers.

The Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, is also affected, but don’t worry — according to The New York Times, the IRS will continue to issue tax refunds during the government shutdown. Go ahead and file your taxes per usual. The earlier the better! That tax refund could come in handy if you’re a federal worker with no pay right now, too.

Additionally, immigration courts and the Marriage Bureau at the D.C. Superior Court are closed, the latter of which delays any couples from obtaining marriage certificates before their big day.

6. What’s still open and operating?

us mail box


Mail, passport services, social security, Medicare, Medicaid, federal courts and benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are currently unaffected by the government shutdown. However, the federal courts may see staffing reduced come January 11, and SNAP services could be put on hold after January, though state and local programs should still be in effect.

7. When will the government shutdown end?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell. Right now, news outlets are reporting that the government shutdown is likely to continue through the end of this week, if not longer. Should it continue past Saturday, it will become the longest government shutdown in history.

8. Any advice for workers being affected by this right now?

Yes! Remember the emergency fund we’ve discussed lately? Well, this is exactly what it’s meant to help you through. An emergency fund is six to nine months’ worth of your living expenses saved in an account so that you can pay your bills when you are out of work or have an emergency situation — such as a government shutdown with no pay. Tap into your resources if needed to pay your rent, car insurance and more this month. If the shutdown lifts soon, at least you’ll know that you’ve already paid your bills. You can then replenish the emergency fund with your next few paychecks.

If the government shutdown is really affecting your finances, consider a few quick ways to make cash, such as renting out your stuff. Who knows — maybe it’ll become a side hustle you never knew you wanted!

Whatever happens, keep your chin up and stay informed.


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