WASHINGTON (CBS) – A government shutdown will furlough as many as 800,000 of the nation’s 2.1 million federal workers. It hit early Tuesday as a bitterly divided Congress failed to approve a temporary spending bill to keep the government running.

Supervisors at government agencies began meetings last week to decide which employees would continue to report to work and which would be considered nonessential and told to stay home under contingency plans ordered by the Office of Management and Budget, or OMB.

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The Office of Personnel Management has a furlough guide to help answer questions about a government shutdown.

So, how will a government shutdown affect you?

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  • U.S. Postal Service.
  • Social Security. Medicare.
  • Active-duty military.
  • Air-traffic control.
  • Immigration.
  • Border security.
  • Emergency and disaster assistance.
  • Federal law enforcement.
  • IRS can still process electronic returns and payments only.


  • Any federal agency that’s subject to appropriations. Each agency has the discretion to decide who is “excepted” or “emergency”, and who is furloughed.
  • All National Parks.
  • All federally-funded museums, including Smithsonian and the National Zoo.
  • All federal government websites.
  • Research by Health and Human Services stops. So does the grant process. Depending on how long it lasts, that will also impact medical research at hospitals and universities.
  • Applying for Social Security. If you’re a new retiree, your application won’t be processed.
  • IRS walk-in centers. Your paper tax return will not be processed.
  • Loan applications for small businesses, college tuition, or mortgages.
  • All Library of Congress buildings. All public events will be cancelled and web sites will be inaccessible.
  • Federal contractors will be out of work.
  • Federal workers (except “excepted” or “emergency” personnel) will not be allowed to work, not even from home. No blackberry, no smartphone, no laptop. Not even allowed to check work email.


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In years past, when there is a shutdown, workers eventually get paid, retroactively. There is no guarantee that’ll happen this time; it will depend on what continuing resolution Congress passes. Also, keep an eye out for when the continuing resolution expires. It could run out in November, December, or next week. Then we go through this all over again.