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What exactly happens during a government shutdown?

Congress has until the end of Thursday to reach an agreement on how to spend federal dollars in the next fiscal year or risk a government shutdown.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — The nation is currently on the brink of a U.S. government shutdown. Lawmakers have until the end of Thursday to reach an agreement on how to spend federal dollars in the next fiscal year. 

If a deal is not reached by 12:01 a.m. on Friday, then all Americans, including hundreds of thousands of federal employees, could begin to see the impact of a full government shutdown.

The reason it would be considered a full shutdown is that Congress has yet to enact any of the 12 appropriations bills, meaning no money is being laid out. The last government shutdown that happened in December 2018 was a partial shutdown because, at the time, five of the 12 appropriation bills had been passed. 

That means this time around more federal agencies will most likely be impacted. 

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Many Americans may notice changes in their everyday lives that range from minor to major inconvenience. For starters, national parks could be closed - if they do remain open, some visitor services may not be available. Loan applications, like a mortgage, could be delayed if the IRS stops verifying income and Social Security numbers. 

Essential services would still continue - those usually include services that are important to national security, like air traffic control, law enforcement and border protection. But, those services could be strained as a result of employees working without pay. During the government shutdowns in 2013 and 2018, nearly 850,000 of the 2.1 million non-postal federal employees were furloughed, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), a nonprofit group focused on fiscal issues. 

The disruptions come at a very crucial time when millions of Americans are still trying to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. If a government shutdown were to happen, then its ability to distribute benefits to the 42 million people who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) could be impacted. 

Other federal agencies that could be impacted include the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration - both of which would be forced to halt thousands of inspections, CRFB says. 

Congress inched one step closer to a shutdown on Monday when Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would fund the government as is and suspend the debt ceiling.