Government shutdown: What would it mean for you?

As Democrats and Republicans continue their fight over funding the government and raising the debt ceiling, many Americans are wondering what a government shutdown would mean.

The fight over spending could mean a U.S. government shutdown at 12:01 a.m. Friday, unless a continuing resolution is passed to keep funding the government.

Does the government actually shut down?

The government does not completely shut down. Instead, employees and services called “essential” remain. Traditionally, that means about half of the federal employee workforce could be told to stay at home without pay.

Here’s what would happen in a government shutdown.

Air travel

Air travel would not be affected as federal air traffic controllers would remain on the job and Transportation Security Administration screeners would remain in place.

Federal court

Federal courts would continue to operate for a period of roughly two weeks. After that time, the courts would have to furlough employees not considered essential.

Food safety

The Food and Drug Administration would handle high-risk recalls. Most routine safety inspections would be halted.


Patients in the National Institutes of Health would continue to be treated.

International travel

Passports and visa applications would still be processed by the State Department. Fees collected when someone applies for a visa or a passport fund those services.


The Federal Housing Administration, the agency that guarantees about 30 percent of all American home mortgages, wouldn’t be able to underwrite or approve any new loans during a shutdown, causing a delay for those using one of those loans to purchase a home.

The mail

You would still get mail, as the U.S. Postal Service is not funded by taxpayer dollars for everyday operations.


Active-duty military personnel would stay on duty, but their paychecks would be delayed.

National parks

All national parks would be closed, as would the Smithsonian museums. Visitors in overnight campgrounds in national parks would be given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park.

School lunches, SNAP and WIC

School breakfasts and lunches funded by the federal government would not be affected. The Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, could be affected. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which used to be called the Food Stamp Program, would continue to be funded and SNAP benefits would continue to be distributed. But several smaller feeding programs would not have the money to operate.


The National Weather Service would keep forecasting weather.

Social Security

Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits would be paid, but new applications for those payments could be delayed.

Veterans services

Most services offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs would continue.

Sources: The Associated Press; Politico; the Congressional Research Service.