It’s happened—Congress has not agreed on a bill to fund government operations, time has run out, and now the U.S. federal government has shut down.

Whenever federal agencies and programs are not appropriated funds by Congress, they experience what is known as a “funding gap.” Under the Antideficiency Act, they are required by law to cease all operations except for emergency situations or what is specifically authorized by law to continue.

Because Congress and the President have failed to reach agreement on government funding measures in a timely manner for this fiscal year, the government is currently being forced to shut down until an agreement is reached.

Government shutdowns such as this result in hundreds of thousands of federal employees being furloughed, require many government activities to be reduced or to stop completely, and have a negative effect on many sectors of our economy.

Here are some resources to help explain how this happened, what the effects will be, and what is being done to resolve the issue:


What is a government shutdown, and what exactly is being shut down?

A guide in plain English from the Wonkblog at The Washington Post purports to tell you “Absolutely everything you need to know about how the government shutdown will work.”, the official Web portal of the U.S. federal government, has a brief summary of which services will be affected by the shutdown on its Government Shutdown Services page.

For more detailed information about the specific activities of federal agencies, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has posted a list of Agency Contingency Plans.

Where can I get help during the shutdown?

Many government agencies will not have staff available to answer the phones or respond to questions posted on their Web sites or through their e-mail services.

Call 1-800-FED-INFO (1-800-333-4636) for answers to your government questions. This phone number will continue to operate during the government shutdown, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., Monday through Friday (Eastern Time).


What is being done to end the shutdown?

Follow live coverage of the progress of Congress (or lack thereof) in resolving this issue on C-SPAN.

Where can I find more information about government shutdowns?

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), the public policy research arm of Congress, has produced several reports about government shutdowns:

Shutdown of the Federal Government: Causes, Processes, and Effects (CRS Report RL34680) Discusses the causes of funding gaps and shutdowns of the federal government, the processes that are associated with shutdowns, and how agency operations may be affected by shutdowns; also discusses some potential issues for Congress.

Government Shutdown: Operations of the Department of Defense During a Lapse in Appropriations (CRS Report R41745) Analyzes potential effects of a shutdown on the Department of Defense.

Government Procurement in Times of Fiscal Uncertainty (CRS Report R42469) Discusses the government’s contractual rights and how these might be used in the event of a shutdown.

Federal Funding Gaps: A Brief Overview (CRS Report RS20348)Analyzes the funding gaps that occurred between FY1977 and FY2010, as well as the events surrounding them, and related legislation.

Past Government Shutdowns: Key Resources (CRS Report R41759) Annotated list of historical documents and other resources related to past government shutdowns, with links to the full text of some of these documents.


And finally, you might like to read the official memo that shut the government down.

The federal government shutdown will have serious consequences for some, while others may hardly notice it. How are you being affected by the shutdown?


Entry written by Bobby Griffith.

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