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From tax refunds to travel, how the government shutdown will impact Americans

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Posted at 7:58 PM, Jan 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-21 11:56:57-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- The government shutdown began just after midnight Saturday, affecting agencies across the country and impacting thousands of Americans. 

But what does a government shutdown really mean for you and your everyday life?

During a government shutdown, only essential government employees will be allowed to keep working - but even those employees are not guaranteed to receive a paycheck until the shutdown ends. 

Here's a look at how the government shutdown will (or won't) impact areas of your life:

  • FILING TAXES: The biggest impact you're likely to see this time of year - if you aren't an employee of the federal government - is processing times for your income taxes. The IRS will furlough a majority of its staff, meaning you may get your tax return even later this year than in years past - so filing early could be even more important this year.
  • TAX QUESTIONS: The IRS call centers that provide assistance to taxpayers will also close so you'll have to save your questions for after the shutdown ends. 
  • GUN PERMITS: The shutdown will also affect the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - meaning if you wanted a gun permit, you'll have to wait until the shutdown is over. 
  • TRAVEL: Airports will operate as normal, but the processing of passport applications could be delayed while the government is shutdown.
  • MAIL: The United States Postal service will still deliver mail.
  • SOCIAL SECURITY: Social Security checks will be processed as normal, although processing times could be delayed depending on employee furloughs. 
  • MEDICAL CARE: Veterans Hospitals will remain open and Medicare and Medicaid workers will continue as normal. 

As far as national security is concerned, the branches of the military currently serving are considered "essential" and will continue their operations around the world, but soldiers will not be paid until after the shutdown ends. 

Staffing at most federal government agencies will be cut drastically, including the following:

  • Consumer Product Safety Commission: Investigations halt and the number of employees will go from 550 to 22 with only critical recalls being implemented. 
  • National Transportation Safety Board: Investigations halt and the number of employees goes from 405 to 22 with only critical investigations being handled. 
  • Department of Education: If you haven't been awarded your grant or loan from the government, you may not get your approval soon. The number of employees will go from 4,000 to 250. 
  • Department of Homeland Security: One of the least impacted with only 30,000 of the 230,000 employees being furloughed. Security will remain normal at airports and train stations. 
  • USDA: Meat, egg and dairy inspections will continue and food stamps will remain available but could run out of money if the government is shut down too long. 
  • EPA: Employees were told to go to work next week in the event of a shutdown. Administrator Scott Pruitt said in an email that the EPA has "sufficient resources" to stay open for a limited amount of time.

The last government shutdown happened in 2013 and lasted 16 days. It left nearly 800,000 federal employees out of work without pay and more than a million other working employees had their paychecks delayed.