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US Shutdown: What happens now the government can't pay the bills??


There's was much foreboding in the Washington air over the prospect of a federal government shutdown. But what happens now that the government has been forced to rein in all its non-essential spending?

Here, we list some of the way ordinary Americans will feel its effects

Federal employees

Around 800,000 of the 2.1 million people working directly for the government providing public services are expected to be furloughed - or told to stay at home on no pay until the shutdown is over. There's always the prospect of back pay for earnings lost to congressional squabbling, but there's no guarantee.

The rules around crises of this sort say all federal workers should be classified as "essential" or "non-essential", so that the most important services aren't suspended in the event of a shutdown. So police, military, postal service, etc - who are classed as "essential" - will carry on as normal. The so-called "non-essentials" are allowed to work no more than four hours on shutdown-related activities before being furloughed.

As for Americans who want to get a passport, the State Department says it has some money left over from its last payment from government for consular duties, which they will spend until it runs out.

Washington, D.C.

As a federal district, the city depends on the federal government for permission to spend money. In the event of a shutdown, services like rubbish collection, street cleaning, and libraries would be suspended. The National Zoo will also be closed.

US military

Though military personnel stay on duty, their paycheques would be delayed and about half of the Defence Department's civilian staff would be furloughed. Troops could stop getting paid from mid-October, and would get retroactive pay once government starts up again.


Most Nasa employees would similarly told to stay at home, but Mission Control in Houston, Texas, and elsewhere will continue to assist the International Space Station. The National Weather Service and National Hurricane Centre would keep doing their jobs.


Airport security and air traffic control - both supplied by federal government - will carry on as normal, but airports have warned passengers to expect delays.

National Parks

During the previous shutdown, spanning 21 days of 1995 and 1996, all 59 of the country's national parks were closed. This will happen again, with campers already in the parks given two days to leave.


The salaries of senators, representatives, and President Barack Obama will be unaffected by any shutdown.