Your government: Open and shutdown

What will the effects of the federal government shutdown be for you and your neighbors?

The U.S. Capitol on Sept. 29, 2013.
Win McNamee/Getty

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic-controlled Senate can’t agree on a short-term budget extension, with Republicans demanding delays to some parts of the Affordable Care Act, the president’s signature health care law. Enrollment in the health care exchanges, a central part of the program, starts Tues., Oct. 1.  

But because that part of the law has already received funding, the curtain will still rise on the ACA, even as hundreds of thousands of government employees face furloughs or pay delays.

Mail would be delivered. Social Security and Medicare benefits would continue to flow. But vacationers would be turned away from national parks and Smithsonian museums.

Because of the shutdown’s effect on the Federal Housing Administration, low-to-moderate income borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages could face delays.

What follows below is a rundown of how the federal government shutdown might affect you.

Air travel

Air traffic controllers and Transportation Safety Administration workers will remain on the job. 

International travel

Visa applications and other embassy functions will continue for American citizens. Some passport services located in federal buildings might be disrupted — only if those buildings are forced to close because of a disruption in building support services.

Benefits payments

Unemployment benefits, Social Security and Medicare payments to the elderly continue, but could see delays. 

Federal courts

Federal court services continue for ten days, after which, furloughs begin. Courts would continue to hear cases. 


Mail through the U.S. Postal Service will continue unaffected. 


The Smithsonian museums will be closed. All National Parks will also close. Overnight campers already in a park will have 48 hours to leave. 


Clinical trials at the National Institutes of Health will cease, but patients continue treatment. The operations and research will be severely limited at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Food safety

The Food and Drug Administration would handle high-risk recalls, but would suspend most routine safety inspections. Meat inspections continue. 

Head Start

Most Head Start educational programs for children would remain unaffected, at least in the beginning, but Florida students would feel the pinch right away. 

Food assistance

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, could shut down. The program provides supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for pregnant women, mothers and their children.  School lunches and breakfasts will continue to be served, and food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will still be distributed.


Americans would still have to file their taxes, but Internal Revenue Service employees who answer questions won't be there. 


Many low-to-moderate incomes borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-insured mortgages through the Federal Housing Administration could face delays. 


NASA faces a big shutdown, but Mission Control stays open. 


The Mars Curiosity Rover, which just found water trapped in the Martian soil, will face a shutdown, Mother Jones reported. 

Homeland Security

The majority of the Department of Homeland Security's employees are expected to stay on the job, including uniformed agents and officers at the country's borders and ports of entry. 


The 1.4 million active-duty military personnel stay on duty and, under a last-minute bill, should still get paychecks on time. About half of the Defense Department's civilian employees would be furloughed.


All 116 federal prisons remain open, and criminal litigation will proceed. 

Work safety

Federal Occupational Safety and Health Adminstration inspectors would stop workplace inspections except in cases of imminent danger. 

Veterans' services

Most services offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs will continue because lawmakers approve money one year in advance for the VA's health programs.


The Social Security Administration will stop processing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, hampering independent investigations. 

Al Jazeera and The Associated Press 

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