Important Information on the Government Shutdown

January 20, 2018
Dear Constituents,

I’m writing this to you from Washington on the eve of the shutdown of the federal government. Obviously, I am frustrated and saddened by what is taking place. I want all my constituents to know that during the shutdown, my offices in Palo Alto and Washington, D.C. will remain open to serve the people of the 18th Congressional District during regular business hours. My staff will be on duty and any constituent who has questions or needs assistance can continue to contact us at the Palo Alto office (650) 323-2984 or the Washington, D.C. office (202) 225-8104.

This is the fourth consecutive short-term funding bill the Majority has brought forward in the House. We are now in the fourth month of a new fiscal year and despite being in control of the entire government…the White House, the Senate, and the House, the Majority has failed to bring even a budget to the floor for a vote. It is a source of embarrassment to run a great country this way. Because the Constitutions gives Congress the power of the purse, any failure of the House or Senate to pass a short-term funding bill by the end of today, January 19th means the government is shut down. Non-essential services like national parks and museums will close, and essential services such as the armed forces, law enforcement and air traffic control will continue to operate. The last government shutdown affected global markets and cost our economy $24 billion, with 120,000 private sector jobs lost according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

There are critically important issues that have bipartisan support that need to be dealt with, including the funding of Community Health Centers across the country that serve 29 million Americans; the issue of nearly 800,000 young people facing deportation since the President ended the DACA program on March 5, 2018; funding necessary for national security-related agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department; and making sure that 9 million children in our country have health insurance (CHIP) .

This newsletter contains information on what happens to essential services and federal workers in the event of a shutdown. If you have any questions or comments, let me hear from you. I will continue to provide updates for you on this situation as they arise.

Most gratefully,

Anna G. Eshoo

Member of Congress

Frequently Asked Questions About a Government Shutdown

What is a government shutdown?

A government shutdown occurs when Congress fails to provide the dollars necessary for the federal government to operate. If a shutdown occurs, all federal agencies must cease operations except for services and activities considered ‘essential’ to ‘protect life and property’ including the armed forces, border protection, air traffic controllers, and law enforcement.

What services will be stopped?

The government will close all ‘nonessential’ services that do not meet the criteria for ‘essential services’, which include, but are not limited to, national parks, museums and monuments. A shutdown prevents the IRS from issuing refund checks, freezes federal environmental clean-up projects, stalls new applicants for Social Security, Medicare and visa applications, and halts small business and housing loans through the Small Business Administration and the Federal Housing Administration.

During the last government shutdown in 2013, there were 850,000 federal employees who were furloughed without pay. A similar number of federal employees would be placed on furlough should a shutdown occur. Additionally, federal contractors will not be paid during a shutdown and are not eligible for back pay.

What services will continue?

Services that are deemed essential for the safety of human life and the protection of property will be continued. This includes the armed forces, border patrol, police, and fire fighting. The Federal Reserve, which is self-funded, will also continue to operate.

Will my mail still arrive?

Yes.  The approximately 500,000 Postal Service employees are exempt from furlough because the Postal Service is self-funded.

Will I still receive my Social Security benefits?

The Social Security Administration has the authority to continue mailing checks. Checks will continue to be mailed, but a number of Social Security employees will be furloughed and new Social Security claims may not be processed.

On a typical day, approximately 60,000 Americans apply for Social Security cards, which they may need to be able to start a job, take out a loan, open a bank account, or conduct other financial transactions.  During a shutdown, no Social Security cards are issued.

Will Veteran’s benefits continue?

During a government shutdown, all VA medical facilities and clinics will remain fully operational.  However, VA call centers and hotlines cease to function, and Veterans Benefits Administration public contact services are not available.  In addition, the 2013 16-day shutdown stopped progress in reducing veterans’ disability claims backlog, which had previously been progressing at a rate of almost 20,000 claims per week.  In addition, during the 2013 16-day shutdown, many veterans lost access to vocational rehabilitation and education counseling services.

What is the impact on small businesses?

A shutdown halts federal loans to small businesses.  During a shutdown, the Small Business Administration stops approving applications for small businesses to obtain loans and loan guarantees, typically $1 billion per month. During the 2013 16-day shutdown, the SBA was unable to process about 700 applications for $140 million in small business loans.

What is the impact on federal housing loans?

During a shutdown, the Federal Housing Administration stops approving applications for housing loans.  During the 2013 16-day shutdown, the FHA delayed processing over 500 applications for loans to develop, rehabilitate, or refinance around 80,000 units of multifamily rental housing.

Will unemployment benefits be affected?

Depending on the length of the shutdown, the federal funds that help states pay the costs of their unemployment programs could run out which would require states to step in and advance the money to keep their programs running. Otherwise, benefits would be reduced or stopped. Please check the California Employment Department website for updates.

What is the impact on medical research?

During a shutdown, NIH shuts down most medical research taking place on its campus in Maryland, prevents the enrollment of patients in NIH Clinical Center studies, and stops reviewing medical research grant applications and making or renewing research grants.

What is the impact on the Centers for Disease Control?

During a shutdown, CDC has to greatly curtail its activities to conduct flu season surveillance and monitoring, promote immunization, support state and local health departments, and update disease treatment and prevention recommendations.

What is the impact on food safety activities?

During a shutdown, the FDA is unable to support the majority of its food safety activities.  The 2013 16-day shutdown sharply curtailed critical FDA food safety inspections of domestic and international food facilities.

Will I still be able to visit the national parks and monuments?

During the 2013 16-day shutdown, national parks, national monuments, and the Smithsonian museums were closed.  However, the Trump Administration has announced that it will work to keep national parks “as accessible as possible” in the event of a shutdown.  Officials have said that the anticipated plan is to keep  many national parks open for hiking, wildlife watching, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.  Open-air parks and monuments in Washington, D.C. will remain  open.  However, other services that require National Park Service staff, including campgrounds and concessions, will be closed.

How will the shutdown affect FEMA natural disaster clean-up efforts?

It’s unclear how ongoing FEMA recovery efforts in Texas, Florida, California, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands from recent hurricanes and wildfires will be impacted.  FEMA staff would still respond to emergencies, but the Trump Administration has not clarified how many workers, if any, would continue with long-term projects.

Will Rep. Eshoo's office be open?

Yes. My office will be open during regular business hours and my staff will continue to do everything they can to address problems constituents encounter with a federal agency, answer questions about legislative matters, and to the best of our ability deal with any emergencies.