Shut it down! The federal government goes home

The effects of the federal government shutdown in Richmond will likely go unnoticed by most–unless there’s a zombie outbreak.

With Congress unable to pass a bill to fund the government,1 last night at midnight the whole shebang shut down. Since 1976 there have been 18 Federal Government shutdowns, the longest (and most recent) lasting 21 days back in 1995. Historically, the time between shutdowns has averaged just 2.2 years, and before this recent aberrant functional period stretching from 1995 – 2013, that number was just 1.2 years. That’s to say: turning the government off as a political strategy was once way more common.

So now that the government is shut down,2 what does it mean? Honestly, different things to different folks. “Essential” people and services will continue: prisons, air traffic controllers, Social Security and food stamps,3 most of the active-duty military, and the Postal Service4 (the mail dudes, not the band). Oh! And the congresspeople who couldn’t agree, they still get paid.

“Nonessential” federal employees will be furloughed (a ton of which live in Northern Virginia), and federal money that supports state and local programs will cease. There are many, many (and probably unknowable) long term effects of a sustained government shutdown, but the immediate consequences in Richmond are something along the lines of:

  • The National Park Service will “take all necessary steps to close and secure national park facilities and grounds in order to suspend all activities except for those that are essential to respond to emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.” That means Richmond National Battlefield Park, the Maggie L. Walker Historic Site, Petersburg National Battlefield, and the visitors center at The American Civil War Center will all be impacted.
  • A bunch of services at Fort Lee will be disrupted (hunting on Fort Lee is suspended), and hundreds of employees will be furloughed
  • Passport renewals and applications are kind of a crapshoot. If you’ve already got your application in to a passport office, godspeed.
  • Homebuyers are probably screwed until things get back on track.
  • The NASA facility at Wallops, which recently sent a spacecraft to the moon will have all of their activities and events cancelled or postponed.
  • If Richmond were to experience a zombie outbreak5 the Center for Disease Control would have “reduced capacity to respond.” Although they will still staff their 24/7 emergency operations center.

But unless you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of federal employees affected by this shutdown, you’re probably not going to see much of a difference in your day-to-day life…yet. Governor Bob McDonnell has said “the administration will know by Friday how extensive the fiscal blow will be to the state and which discretionary federal services Virginia will have to shoulder until a divided Congress can compromise.” He also said:

Shame on everybody. A pox on both houses for letting this happen.

We’ll keep you posted.


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  1. Unable, unwilling…YOU DECIDE. 
  2. You can check the status of the government in a variety of places, but my favorite is
  3. That’s not 100% true. Depending on the agency, their funding has already been approved for shorter or longer periods of time. They’ll keep operating and sending out checks…until that funding runs out. 
  4. Which is responsible for its own funding! That’s why the price of dang stamps keeps going up! 
  5. Before you discount the possibility consider the number of Civil War-era corpses we have hanging around. 

Photo by: jcolman

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Ross Catrow

Founder and publisher of RVANews.

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