As the federal government enters the third week of its partial shutdown, federal employees are not the only ones affected. Consumers across the country may notice the consequences of the shutdown, from closed national museums and parks to delays in buying a new home.
The federal government partially shut down at midnight on December 22, 2018, after Congress and President Donald Trump were unable to reach an agreement on a stopgap spending measure. The shutdown is considered partial because it affects only federal agencies that have not yet had their annual appropriations funded by Congress.
While many government functions including the military, law enforcement, the Postal Service, the Department of Veterans Affairs and entitlement programs are still operating, a quarter of the government still lacks funding. Here’s a look at some of the government functions that the shutdown has affected, and those it has not.
What Won’t Be Affected by the Shutdown:
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personal, air-traffic controllers and security officers will still be on the job during the shutdown; as well as customs and border agents, who will continue working at border crossings and ports of entry. The passenger railroad service, Amtrak, that is run by a government-owned corporation will continue to operate as usual during the shutdown.
Benefits will still be provided for Medicare, which offers health insurance for people 65 and older, and Medicaid, which provides coverage for low-income individuals, since both programs are already funded through September 30, 2019. Also unaffected by the shutdown is the Affordable Care Act, which manages the administration of health insurance coverage for individual insurance.
Social Security and disability checks will still go out. In contrast to previous shutdowns, all services will remain open during the shutdown. The Social Security Administration (SSA) already received funding for the 2019 fiscal year. “Social Security services and offices will remain fully operational, and Social Security benefits will be paid on time,” said an agency spokesman.
What Will Be Affected by the Shutdown:
National Parks & Museums
Many national parks such as Yellowstone National Park and Arches in Utah announced they will be entirely or partially closed to visitors during the shutdown. For the parks that have remained open, the National Park Service has warned that “access may change without notice” and that visitors enter at their own risk due to lower staffing and resources. Museums have been affected, too. The National Gallery of Art, all 19 Smithsonian museums, and the National Zoo were closed as a result to the shutdown.
Under the shutdown, most Internal Revenue Service (IRS) operations have stopped. However, tax deadlines will remain in place. According to The Wall Street Journal, during a shutdown, the IRS generally does not answer taxpayer questions or issue tax refunds. Additionally, home buyers looking to buy a new home or refinance a mortgage insured by the Federal Housing Administration will be put on standby. Because the lender depends on IRS to provide and confirm the borrower’s federal tax returns, it will have to wait until IRS employees are back at work.
Government Loans and Grants
Several government agencies that handle housing and loans have been affected by the shutdown. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is closed, meaning loan applications that small businesses and startups typically use cannot be processed. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is also affected, so new housing development grants, loans for new home buyers and housing quality inspections may be delayed.
Genral Government Assistance
Consumers may also run into problems getting up-to-date information from government websites. For example, USA.gov, an official website of the United States government that provides online information, programs and services reads “due to a lapse in funding, the USA.gov website will be available, but not updated.” Additional consumer services like the National Do Not Call Registry and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are closed and unable to offer services at this time due to the shutdown.