Now that the government’s partial shutdown is entering its fourth week, Americans are asking not just how long it will last but also how it affects them and those close to them. For some estimated hundreds of thousands of government workers the answer is obvious. They have gone without at least one paycheck and are likely to miss another. Some such as TSA security workers at airports are working but without pay. There are resultant callouts for some who understandably resist working at least for now for free. Other “non-essential” workers are furloughed until further notice. Essential workers include agents from the FBI, ATF, Drug Enforcement Agency and Secret Service who are currently working without pay. Both essential and “non-essential” groups may receive backpay when the government reopens. A number of National Parks while not officially closed have remained unstaffed and trash and garbage have been piling up. Contract workers likely will never see payment for this time out of work.
The reason the shutdown is referred to as a “partial” shutdown is because some allocations were already approved in 2018 and those budgetary items are unaffected. Notably among them is the Department of Defense. However, oddly, the U.S. Coast Guard is not included in the defense allocation and Coast Guard workers are currently working without pay.
Many observations made here are subject to change as those in charge shift course as to what activities of government will continue on and which would not. Therefore, anything stated here would need to be checked by readers on a regular basis. This is a best case estimate as of the time of writing.
Note, for instance, the IRS. Thousands of Internal Revenue Service employees
were furloughed. The shutdown, the 21st since the modern federal budgeting process
began and the third shutdown since the beginning of the Trump administration, came as
taxpayers and preparers readied to deal with the massive changes in tax law from the Tax
Cuts and Jobs Act passed late last year. Expect complexity.
Initially the thought was that tax refunds would be delayed. There was a reversal
regarding that thought. Probably recognizing the public outcry that failure to issue tax
refunds would generate, the government advised they would be. However, auditing and
processing of other paperwork could expect to be delayed.
During the shutdown, the IRS will process original electronic and paper filed
returns and accept payments. Taxpayers will still be expected to file and pay taxes on
time. The Internal Revenue Service will issue refunds to taxpayers even if the U.S.
government shutdown extends into the filing season.
Tax preparers may be unable to access some information from the IRS that used
to be available. For instance, if IRS information is needed to verify some tax return
numbers, that may not happen. Individuals needing confirmation of their federal tax
information for state return purposes or to qualify for loans can be affected as well as
those affected by IRS audits which can be expected to slow.
Reports regarding other agencies indicate other delays. These are some as reported. The Food and Drug Administration is not expected to be doing some routine food safety inspections. The SEC would not be able to approve new initial public offerings. With mortgage lenders unable to verify borrowers’ incomes, some home closings may be delayed. Some fishing boats in Alaska are stuck in dock, in need of federal permits and inspections. The Agriculture Department has found funds to provide food stamp assistance through February but expects to run out after that.
As reported by several news sources, Immigration Courts are reported to have closed causing judges to indefinitely postpone hearings scheduled months in advance. There is an estimated backlog of over 800,000 immigration cases for resolution.
What would continue would be Social Security payments for individuals in the system and Medicare and Medicaid payments. Stay tuned.
Esquire, Colliton Law Associates, P.C. Janet Colliton has practiced law for over 38 years, 37 of them in Chester County, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Her practice, Colliton Law Associates, PC, is limited to elder law, Medicaid, including advice, applications and appeals, and other benefits planning including Veterans benefits, life care and special needs planning, guardianships, retirement, and estate planning and administration.