Government Shutdown: What It Means and What Services May Be Impacted

The U.S. may be in for another federal government shut down soon, and there are a few things for Americans to consider as the possibility looms. Lawmakers have until the end of the day on Thursday to agree on this year's budget or else the U.S. government will be officially closed starting on Friday. Here are some of the services that will be shut down if that's the case.

A government shutdown would halt the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in its tracks, which would mean that the agency could not verify incomes or Social Security numbers for banks and other businesses. That means mortgage applications and large loans would be on hold, according to a report by CBS News. On the other end of the spectrum, beloved recreational government programs would likely be shut down as well, such as the National Parks maintenance. For the duration of the shutdown, many of those parks would be inaccessible.

At the same time, some government services would continue to operate during a shutdown, likely including border patrol, air traffic control and many national security agencies. CBS News spoke to Marc Goldwein, senior policy director of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), who said that it can actually be difficult to predict which services a government shut down will impact, because the agencies make inconsistent determinations about how "essential" their services are.

"Every shutdown is different - there is a lot of discretion in the agencies about what they can continue to do," he said. "Everything that's not essential has to stop, but there are different definitions of essential work."

The question this time around is whether some of the COVID-19 services will be deemed "essential." In particular, the FDA's work on the coronavirus vaccines and the CDC's work on mitigating spread could be in danger. This comes just as the FDA is considering opening up the vaccines to children as young as 5 years old.

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Meanwhile, federal workers could be in danger of losing their income as a shutdown would be mass furloughs until the budget could be settled. A full shutdown could reportedly impact about 2 million civilian employees.

All of this is due to Republicans' vote on Monday to block the budget drafted by the Democratic majority, complaining that it suspends the national debt ceiling. With shutdowns like this becoming more and more common in recent years, many pundits are discussing whether something needs to be changed in the process to avoid a devastating halt in federal work this often.