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How The Government Shutdown Affects Regular People — What You Need To Know

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As of midnight on October 1, 2013 the United States Government officially shutdown operations. So what exactly does that mean for the regular everyday Joe? 

When you hear about a government shutdown does your mind go immediately to chaos? It shouldn’t. Despite all the cut backs in services, it’s not like the entire country will divide into separate governing states like before the revolutionary war – we hope.

So to the average citizen, what exactly does this shutdown mean?

  1. If you happen to be a government employee, you will probably be furloughed. What that means is that you won’t be getting paid until the Government opens up shop again. “Essential” personnel will be asked to report to work as scheduled, but without pay. The “non-essential” workers will work a half day (unpaid) and then sent home.
  2. Traveling? Right now it’s unclear about how tourism will be affected by the shutdown. You can still apply for a passport, but the question is “will it be processed?” In 1995 and 1996 when the govt. shutdown, thousands of passport applications went unprocessed. According to ABC News, you will still be able to get a passport and contact embassies. Planning a trip to a national park? You’r eout of luck. Those will be closed until the shutdown ends. United States tourism took a big hit in the shutdown of ’95-’96, so you can bet they don’t want to see that happen again.
  3. So which government agencies are closed? Quite a few, actually. The Department of Housing and Urban Development will not be able to provide extra money for people in public housing. The National Institutes of Health will stop accepting new patients for clinical research and stop answering hotline calls about medical questions. as we already mentions, all national parks and museums will be closed. The Environmental Protection Agency, and the Labor Department’s regulatory offices will be closed. Veterans will also see some of their benefits affected by the shutdown. See a complete listing of Government Closings here.
  4. What about here in Massachusetts? So how does this shutdown affect the good people of the Bay State? According to the Boston Globe any of the official national parks in Mass. will be closed. That includes the USS Constitution, The Bunker Hill Monument, and more. Over 100 national park employees will furloughed. Teachers, you may want to postpone that school field trip to the historic parts of Boston for just a bit.
  5. Will it cost me (the tax payer) money? The short answer – yes. Because of all the furloughed govt. employees who get paid with tax dollars, they will need to be paid when things commence. CBS News points out that the shutdown in 1995 and 1996 cost around $1.4 million after 27 days. That’s about $2 billion in today’s dollars. That money has to come from somewhere.

So unless you work for the federal government, or have a family member who does, you won’t be that affected. Right now it’s just a matter of time to see how long this will last. But rest assured, you will be okay as long as this isn’t a permanent situation.

[ABC News, CBS News, Boston Globe, Washington Post]

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