No need to hoard canned goods, ammunition and gold coins in preparation for the potential shutdown of the federal government on Tuesday.
This won’t be the zombie apocalypse.
Many of the core services that Texans rely upon most — from the military to mail delivery — will continue uninterrupted even if members of Congress fail to pass a budget agreement before Oct. 1. Social Security checks will be issued, air traffic control will monitor the skies, and even the federal courts are expected to remain open, at least for a couple of weeks.
But national parks and museums, such as the LBJ Presidential Library at the University of Texas, would be shuttered along with all other functions deemed nonessential to ensuring national security, providing benefits and protecting life and property.
That means that processing of paperwork for passports, gun permits and new benefits would grind to a halt.
The duration of a shutdown will determine if it is really noticed outside of Washington, D.C.
People seeking home loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, for instance, probably won’t have their loans delayed unless the budget showdown drags on, said G. Steven Gray of Texas Lone Star Lending.
“As long as lenders believe the shutdown won’t last very long, they probably will continue closing FHA loans, knowing the delay getting them insured won’t be long,” Gray said.
The most recent shutdown, beginning in December 1995, is also the longest, spanning 21 days, according to the Congressional Research Service.
All of this could be moot by Monday night if leaders in the Republican-controlled House can strike a deal with the Democrats in the Senate.
On Saturday, the Senate is set to take up the budget measure, which maintains current funding levels for a short period, and is expected to strip out the House provision that would eliminate funding for the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as “Obamacare.”
With the deadline fast approaching, House leaders will have two options: accept the Senate version or close up shop.
In the event of a shutdown, the hardest hit would be the many federal employees sent home to wait for the budget impasse to be resolved. Of the 2.1 million nonpostal federal employees, about 800,000 could be deemed “nonessential” and furloughed without pay, according to a 2011 estimate.
About 11,500 federal employees work in the Austin area, though it is unclear how many would be furloughed. Agency leaders began notifying workers Thursday if they should report for work on Tuesday or stay home.
“The federal employees would bear the brunt of this,” said J. David Cox Sr., national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 670,000 federal workers, including 100,000 in Texas.
Most of the workers Cox represents earn about $35,000 to $40,000 a year, and they have already absorbed six days of furloughs this year because of the budget cuts known as the sequester, he said. They have also been under a pay freeze for the past three years.
“These are not fat, rich cats,” Cox said. “Our people want to go to work. They want to serve the American people.”
Active members of the military will remain on duty and get paid — eventually. Their checks would be delayed if the shutdown stretches to the Oct. 15 payday.
“When paychecks stop happening … you’re really toying with people’s way of life,” said Scott Spiker, chief executive officer of First Command Financial Services, a Fort Worth-based financial planning firm that works primarily with military families.
Budget brinkmanship has become a frequent occurrence in Washington over the past few years, and military members are growing weary of it, Spiker said.
A recent survey of military officers commissioned by First Command found that 86 percent of the respondents were not confident that Congress would resolve its budget issues on time, and two-thirds said they had been affected by the furloughs and recent budget cuts.
Spiker said his company does what it can to help clients, such as lifting constraints on accessing money tied up in certificates of deposit.
“We’re trying to make it easier on our clients where we can,” Spiker said. “Goodness, we shouldn’t have to time after time after time.”
Federal Government Shutdown in Central Texas
Here’s a glance at how some federal government functions would be affected by a partial shutdown:
- 11,500 federal employees in the Austin area could be subject to furlough. Those deemed essential to ensuring national security, providing benefits, protecting life and property, and other central functions would continue to work.
- 45,000 soldiers based at Fort Hood would remain on duty. Their pay might be delayed if a shutdown stretches to Oct. 15.
- 6,000 civilian employees at Fort Hood could be furloughed, depending upon who is considered essential.
- 13 national parks in Texas would be closed, including the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. The LBJ Presidential Library at the University of Texas would also be shuttered.