by Sarah Whitman
The words “government shutdown” have been floating around recently, but with all of the holiday chaos, most people haven’t had time to understand what this is, what it means, and how it’s affecting the public. The current shutdown has been going on for 12 days, but this isn’t the first shutdown we’ve experienced in recent history... not even close.
What IS a government shutdown?
A government shutdown occurs when Congress cannot approve a federal budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Now, this isn’t necessarily a budget for the ENTIRE government. It can just be for specific departments. If the government (i.e. Congress and the President) cannot agree on the allocation of money to complete the budget, non-essential federal government departments stop until lawmakers can agree on a budget. It’s kind of like if your roommate wants to only pay for Netflix and you want Hulu and so you don’t get to watch either until an agreement can be made, even though you could probably compromise on HBO Now for the time being.
What does that mean for us?
The longer a shutdown goes on, the more and more things close or are without services. The most notable effects have been at National Parks where they are open but without services leaving our beautiful land to be trashed (where’s the human decency people?!). Monuments and the Smithsonian Museums also close because they rely on federal funding. Applications for visas and passports are no longer processed along with marriage certificates and mortgage approvals. The post office, however, does stay open. Late Christmas packages, we’re lookin’ at you.
Since these government bodies and functions are deemed as “non-essential”, the employees who work in the departments are sent home and docked pay. Some essential government departments like the military and border patrol are still forced to work but not paid! That’s messed up man…
Why this matters
People are struggling with, er, not getting paid and lack of access to the services they are accustomed to. Government employees who were expecting a paycheck last week aren’t getting zilch. Even worse? The President and Congress are still getting paid (can I get a hell nah?!) And finally, shutdowns generally reflect poorly on the government, squandering all faith (if you had any left).
What you can do
We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there’s not much to do as of now. Make sure your friends who work for the federal government are doing okay and try to support them how you can. You can also text ACT SHUTDOWN to 52886 to tell Congress to get their butts in gear and pass something ASAP.
photo from CNN: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images