The lesser-known effects of a government shutdown

Posted at 7:33 PM, Jan 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-21 21:33:29-05

By Caroline Kenny, CNN

What do NASA tours, Air Force Academy athletics and military base commissaries have in common? All have come to a halt during the current government shutdown.

With the government shut down, thousands of nonessential government personnel will be furloughed. Agencies are taking the weekend to let their employees know their status and other organizations are evaluating their finances and determining how they plan to handle the shutdown.

A government shutdown affects a lot more than just the everyday grind of Congress and Washington, DC. There are many consequences that affect people all over the globe and might not be commonly considered. Here’s a list of some notable impacts of a government shutdown:

NASA comes to a halt

NASA estimates that nearly 17,500 employees will be furloughed during a government shutdown, according to ashutdown plan published by the agency in November 2017. That is nearly 85% of the agency’s workforce. Those furloughed who are working on experiments will not be allowed to touch them until after the shutdown, and by that point, they might have to start all over again.

Public access and tours to all NASA facilities also come to a halt.

IRS can’t help with taxes

The Trump administration recently signed a new tax law that only just started affecting Americans this month. With tax season upon us, the IRS has a significant amount of essential personnel it needs to keep on duty, but more than 50% of the agency’s employees are being furloughedduring the shutdown. If it were any other time of the year, that percentage would be even higher. The IRS begins accepting 2017 tax returns on January 29, but questions may go unanswered, and help from agency employees will be hard to come by as Americans try to figure out this new tax system on their own during the shutdown.

Lag in health information

The website for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) currently says, “Because of a lapse in government funding, the information on this website may not be up to date, transactions submitted via the website may not be processed, and the agency may not be able to respond to inquiries until appropriations are enacted.” Americans rely on the NIH for the latest information on health and medical research, but because of the shutdown, there could be a lag in information for however long the shutdown lasts.

Air Force athletes grounded, but cadets, midshipmen to play on

The United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, announced that they have canceled all sporting events due to the federal government shutdown. The announcement was posted on the Air Force Academy’s official Twitter page. The Academy had a number of sporting events scheduled on Saturday, including swimming, basketball, and gymnastics, that were ultimately canceled. More games are scheduled for the coming days, and unless the government opens back up, these too will ultimately be canceled, affecting the college athletes, staff and fans.

Both Army and Navy athletics will continue despite the government shutdown. The United States Military Academy at West Point, home to Army athletics, said in a statement Saturday, “the athletic department is largely made up of non-appropriated funded and contracted personnel, who are generally unaffected by the government shutdown. Navy spokesman Scott Strasemeier told CNN that the Navy athletics program is not funded by the government since the Naval Academy Athletic Association is a non-profit organization.

Potential flu problems

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had to furlough 68% of its staff during the 2013 government shutdown, and their plan going into the current shutdown was to furlough 61% in the midst of an influenza breakout across the United States.

However, the CDC plans to continue its immediate response to urgent disease outbreaks, including seasonal influenza, the agency said last week. It said the Department of Health and Human Services “would use the full extent of the authority under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) to protect life and property under a lapse in appropriations.”

The CDC said it would continue collecting data reported by states and hospitals and report “critical information” needed for authorities to track and treat the flu.

In the 2013 shutdown, public health surveillance work was left undone, and the flu surveillance program that helps people get flu shots and tracks cases shut down, making it hard to keep the country safe from the flu, according to a study in The Journal of Science Policy and Governance.

Military families take a big hit

The military is a huge government-run organization, and as a result, millions of service members and their families will have their daily lives disrupted by the government shutdown.

All active-duty members of the military are to continue their duties, but they will not be paid until after the shutdown is resolved, according to a memo from the Pentagon released prior to the shutdown.

Most commissaries on military bases in the United States will be shut down. Overseas commissaries will remain open as well as those in five remote stateside locations, but the remainder will follow an orderly shutdownto reduce the amount of perishables on hand and properly safeguard equipment and facilities.

The American Forces Network went black immediately after the government shut down on Saturday at midnight. However, the Department of Defense announced Sunday that it will show sports programming on AFN, including NFL playoff games, during the government shutdown after receiving complaints for stripping deployed troops of that service.

“Despite the government shutdown, DoD determined the operational necessity of television and radio broadcasts constitutes them as essential activities,” Dana White, the department’s chief spokesperson, said in a statement. “We will continue to find solutions to support our troops at home and abroad. Congress must come to a resolution, support our troops and pass a budget soon.”