Shutdown: Separating Fact from Fiction

A government shutdown is never good for anybody. The last time Congress shut down the government for 16 days in 2013, it cost the economy $24 billion and 120,000 jobs in the private sector. There were also a few misconceptions out there about the shutdown and government employees. Before people start coming up with alternative facts again this time around, we want to set a few things straight.

Here are 3 things you need to understand if Congress shuts down the government:

1. Federal employees want to go to work

Federal employees believe in their mission and want to provide quality services to the American people. But during the 2013 shutdown, about 850,000 federal employees were locked out of work and were prohibited even from checking their emails or phones. These furloughed employees did not get paid during the shutdown. Those deemed essential were required to go to work but did not get paid either. They eventually received retroactive pay, but late paychecks hurt their families. Many employees almost went bankrupt, which could affect their employment. Members of Congress, on the other hand, continued to receive a paycheck during the shutdown.

2. Politicians are wasting our tax dollars when they lock out employees

Because 850,000 employees were locked out of work for 16 days, the country suffered a massive productivity loss. Federal employees were furloughed for a combined total of 6.6 million days, and the Office of Management and Budget estimated the cost to be about $2.5 billion. But those estimates were conservative.

"It does not represent the total cost, because the other thing it does not cover is all the preparation leading up to and what happened post [shutdown]," then OMB Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell told reporters.

Indeed, experts agreed just considering a shutdown costs money since employees have to postpone other tasks to make shutdown plans.

3. Millions of Americans will suffer because federal employees can’t work

During the last shutdown, millions of Americans suffered.

  • Hundreds of cancer patients couldn’t enroll in National Institutes of Health clinical trials.

  • The FDA delayed nearly 500 food inspections.

  • The EPA halted inspections at 1,200 sites, including hazardous waste facilities, chemical facilities, and drinking water systems.

  • Veterans with disabilities didn’t get their checks as employees couldn’t be there to tackle the backlog of disability claims.

  • Almost $4 billion in tax refunds were delayed by up to two weeks.

  • Head Start programs serving 6,300 low-income kids were forced to shut their centers up to nine days.

  • The National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) were forced to furlough four out of the five Nobel Prize-winning researchers employed by the federal government.

And the list goes on.

Failing to fund the government’s operations has real-world implications for everyone in this country. Congress needs to do what we elected them to do and pay their bills on time.

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