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What is a Government Shutdown?

Haven Ross

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Knock, knock! Anyone home? On Friday at midnight, the United States government entered into the first government shutdown since 2013. The phrase “government shutdown” can cause loads of questions from citizens about anything from mail to national parks. The Land of the Free is the only country that takes part in government shutdowns. But what exactly is a government shutdown? In the words of a few anonymous RMA students, is it just like the 2013 horror movie “The Purge,” where all crimes become legal? Does this mean the government can go on vacation? Can people still get college acceptances through the mail? Despite the seriousness of the phrase, a government shutdown is not as scary as it may sound.

By September 30, Congress is supposed to have the budget for the next fiscal year squared away. When they cannot reach a decision on how to appropriate funds, Congress must go into a shutdown. This year, the most notable issue barring the government from completing the budget was the disagreement between the Republicans and Democrats over the protection of immigrants under the DACA program. The budget issues are over expenses for defense, aid to Puerto Rico, and help with the opioid epidemic. In 2013, the government shutdown was due to the divided government not agreeing about Obamacare. The government shutdown of 2018 has already come to an end; Capitol Hill reopened on Monday, January 22!

When the news surfaces that the government has a chance of going into shutdown, it leads to people wondering about what is actually going on. Federal departments that are considered non-essential are forced to stop operating for the time being. Federal employees who are not considered essential will be furloughed, meaning they receive a leave of absence. The IRS shuts down, except for employees filing tax returns. Most of the workers for the EPA are furloughed. Some federal departments are able to remain open with separate funding or funds saved up over time. The Postal Service continues to operate because they run off of separate funds. Some programs, called mandatory programs, are never shutdown. Also, national parks were able to stay open for this government shutdown under a new policy! The federal employees still get paid, but it is a matter of when they will get their paycheck.

Despite its moniker, a government shutdown is not as scary as it sounds. Everyone knows how hard it can be to make a decision in a group of people with ideas that greatly vary. No matter who is in office, there is the possibility that agreements cannot be made, and the government will be forced to shut down.

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What is a Government Shutdown?