Newscaster: One billion a week—that’s the amount the shutdown is actually going to cost taxpayers. More than 2 million Americans are suddenly going to be without pay. But the lawmakers who actually got us into this predicament? Well, they’re going to get paid. For some reason, something doesn’t add up here.
It’s been 17 years since this happened. What is affected? What’s not affected? Here with the breakdown is Jonathan Bell, Federal employment attorney, and he is here to guide us through this day. A lot of people are like, “So what’s happening?” We know what’s not affected. What will be affected?
Attorney Jonathan Bell: For example, some agencies, like NASA—agencies considered nonessential—will essentially be shut down. Ninety-five percent of NASA employees will be furloughed—Department of Energy, some major Federal agencies…
It really is going to affect different Federal agencies differently. For example, Customs and Border Protection, which is considered essential—84% of those employees will be allowed to return to work.
Newscaster: Back in 1995, it was for 21 days. Do we have any word on how long this could obviously take?
Atty. Bell: No word whatsoever and that’s what makes it terrifying for Federal employees. There’s about 1 million people right now out of a job and waiting for Congress to get their act in order to find out what’s going on with their future, to see if they can put food on their table and put their kids through college.
Newscaster: Yes, and if you think about Head Start Programs, you think about the military, you think about people that are so essential—Congress feels like they’re essential and they’re getting paid. Now, they’re putting this caveat that they’re going to donate their money. Do you think that’s enough of a Band-Aid for the American public?
Atty. Bell: Essentially not. These Federal employees could have made a lot more money in the private sector. They’re very patriotic. They’ve worked hard and they’re getting the short end of the stick.
Newscaster: Also, let’s talk about the money from tourist dollars that’s not going to be coming into cities such as Washington, D.C., such as New York City. How bad is it going to hurt? We’re estimating it’s going to be $1 billion per week.
Atty. Bell: It’s not just going to hurt the Federal employees; it’s going to hurt airlines, people not getting their—
Newscaster: [Interposing] Small businesses.
Atty. Bell: Small businesses that rely on the army bases that make money based on the Federal employees’ incomes. And what about the contractors for Federal employees as well?
Newscaster: These are some of the services that are affected: applications for small business loans and mortgages. That’s going to be put on hold?
Atty. Bell: Yes.
Newscaster: Also, we have Federal Courts. They’re going to remain open for 10 days, but after that, what happens?
Atty. Bell: They’re going to run out of money. Federal Courts, they have filing fees that could help them sustain for a little bit of time, but they’re going to run out of that money and they’re going to be subject to the furlough.
Newscaster: Let’s take a look at more things that are affected. We have the IRS audit appointments. They’re going to be cancelled. And of course, national parks and museums—they are going to be closed. What is going to happen is that Social Security is going to keep going, but for how long are we going to get those checks?
Atty. Bell: The Social Security checks are going to continue. What’s going to make it difficult is processing the new applications for new applicants. They’re going to be extremely delayed.
Newscaster: These are some of the things that are not affected: mail delivery; like we said, Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment benefits; air traffic controllers, TSA agents, and, of course, Amtrak trains, active military personnel. But once again, if it goes for a prolonged period of time, we don’t know how long that’s going to take.
Also, there is a budget battle that’s looming in October, too, that we have to deal with. Is there a possibility that the government can just simply run out of money?
Atty. Bell: I don’t think there’s a possibility they’re going to run out of money. Eventually, both sides are going to come to the table and reach a mutual agreement—which they should have done already.
Newscaster: A lot of back and forth, a lot of back and forth, a lot of politics as usual, and a lot of people are saying, “What is going on in D.C.?” Not a good sign. But thank you so much for the breakdown.
Jonathan Bell, he’s a Federal employment attorney; he’s joining us live, here in-studio.