Our area has 38,000 federal employees. The federal government is the single largest employer in the metro area.
As of this writing, and frankly, things are changing every hour, as of midnight tonight, none of those 38,000 federal employees will be paid. Unless the Congress enacts retroactive pay, many of those furloughed will not receive pay at all.
Right now, 38,000 families are on pins and needles. 38,000 families are looking to see how much they have in savings. All are preparing for uncertainty, and many are worried about how to pay their bills.
Let me speak for a moment about what a shutdown means for a typical solider in the field right now, bravely doing his or her job in Afghanistan.
A Private First Class (PFC) makes $1,700 a month when on duty. Our military pays twice a month. Each pay period, while defending our nation overseas, our PFC’s are paid $850. Out of that check, often sent to their wife and children at home, the average PFC’s families pay rent, car payments, insurance, credit card bills, and utilities. Of course, that is before we get to food, gas, daycare or any number of things that require payment each month.
Our typical solider, sailor, airman or Marine and their families and children back home are living paycheck to paycheck. Many in Congress have forgotten what that is like. These 18 year-olds, they do not have a great deal of savings. Perhaps you remember what it was like to be young and barely scraping by.
Lives are hard for our young men and women in uniform in the line of fire. Their lives are in danger every day.
But now, as we discuss this Continuing Resolution, we add one more worry to their already full plate. Not only do they have to worry about a sniper around the corner, but because of ideological political games of brinkmanship by the Majority party in the House, these men and women may have to wait for their paychecks.
If the government shuts down tonight, those serving in uniform will be paid for the first week of April, but have to wait until Congress passes the CR to be paid.
Can you imagine how they feel?
I should tell you that I have voted multiple times to prohibit Members of Congress and the President from receiving basic (or retroactive) pay for any period in which there is more than a 24-hour shutdown. Now let us examine why we are here. How could something so important come to this? Last night, the final amount of cuts to be part of this CR was agreed upon.
We went 2/3 of the way towards the House Republicans target of cuts. That is what was agreed upon. It was not even close to meeting in the middle. But it wasn’t enough.
Many Americans are hearing the word ‘riders’ for the first time in the context of a national budget. These are social policy issues that the House Republicans have added onto the budget to score points. They have very little to do with budget cuts. In fact, the final sticking point represents .01% of the federal budget.
The holdup is a ‘rider’ that would completely defund the $360 million budget for Planned Parenthood.
Why, you might ask is this important?
After all, federal funds are currently banned by law for being used for abortions. I voted just last year, as part of the Affordable Care Act to reaffirm that law. In the last 30 years, no federal dollar has gone to pay for an elective abortion.
So, we are arguing about a statement to make social conservatives happy. But that statement will eliminate the preventive care Planned Parenthood provides to the many in our nation. Over 70% of Planned Parenthood’s clinics are in rural towns where they are often the only place for preventive checkups, cancer screenings and pre-natal care.
Literally, right now, Republicans are contemplating shutting down the world’s largest and most powerful nation because they want to make it harder for women to get the health services they need.
So, in order to score political points, our fragile economy will reverse its momentum. In five weeks, our GDP could lose a whole percentage point.
Families right here in Missouri’s Fifth District won’t be able to get home loans. Our small businesses won’t be able to get the loans they need. And as we come up to the deadline for filing your tax returns, individuals won’t get their tax refunds or their returns processed.
The choice Republican Leaders are making has consequences for everyday Americans all over the country.
And all of this is not about spending. We have agreed on the amount we will cut under this CR. We gave up far more than I wanted, but still there is no agreement because there is a desire on the far right to stop women from getting the regular tests and preventative services they deserve.
Even former Governor and fellow minister, Mike Huckabee, says his party should not hold up this CR on the issue of funding for women’s health.
So here we sit, staring at a government shutdown. We are being held hostage by the far right. And we wait. The cuts have been agreed to, and now we are down to radical ideology. Millions of Americans are waiting for common sense to prevail in a town where good sense is in short supply.
What a shutdown means for you
If Congress cannot agree on or pass a budget for the remaining 2011 fiscal year, the government will shut down Friday, April 8, 2011 at midnight. I have said it before and I will say it again. While there will be plenty of blame to go around if our nation's government shuts down, the pain will not be borne by those who caused the meltdown. American citizens seeking assistance, our nation's public workers, our seniors, our troops, our veterans and the poor will bear the brunt of this act of folly.
How Does the Shutdown Affect You?
Services will continue that are deemed essential for the safety of human life and the protection of property. This includes the armed forces, border patrol, police, fire fighting and federal workers who provide medical care on the job. The Postal Service and the Federal Reserve, which are both self-funded, will also continue to operate.
If a shutdown happens, the government temporarily stops all "non-essential" services. However, "essential services" will continue to operate, such as those listed above. Other federal agencies may cut their services to a bare minimum, and are determining which of their services fall under these rules.
IRS—Tax forms still need to be postmarked by Monday, April 18 (Patriots Day is not a federal holiday and you can no longer send forms to the IRS for processing). Electronic tax returns should be processed, but paper returns will not be, leading to a delay in getting your refund.
Social Security—Benefits for this crucial program do not go through the appropriations process, so they should continue being deposited in your account or mailed to your home. However, staff cuts may delay other services such as enrolling new participants, holding hearings, or resolving problems.
Medicare—Benefits for this program are also exempt from the shutdown, so current participants should not notice any disruption, but new applications could be delayed.
Veterans—VHA hospitals will stay open, and VBA disability compensation will be paid. While VA hospitals will remain open, the last government shutdown saw many veterans' benefits cut or reduced.
Visas and Passports—Prior shutdowns have kept new visa and passport applications from being processed. Embassies will remain open for services for American citizens, but will not conduct visa interviews.
National Parks—National Park Service grounds, museums, and monuments will close, disrupting educational visits and vacation plans.
Unemployment—If the shutdown continued for an extended period, the federal funds that help states pay the costs of their unemployment programs could run out, which would require the state to step in and advance the money to keep their programs running. Otherwise, benefits would be reduced or stopped.
Federal Courts—Federal courts are not affected by the shutdown and remain open.
Disaster Response—Disaster Response is not affected by the shutdown.
How Does the Shutdown Affect Government Workers?
Federal Computer Week reports that there are two types of shutdowns—“soft" and "hard." A "soft" shutdown would require federal employees to come to work, but are not allowed to do anything "productive," which is essentially anything to carry out the central duties of the agency. A "hard" shutdown means that employees are furloughed from work and only a few exempt employees come into work. The "soft" shutdown only occurs if the President believes there's a chance for rapid compromises with Congress.
Most non-essential government employees will be furloughed from their jobs, only a few exempt employees will be allowed to come into work. Federal employees who are furloughed will not receive pay. Additionally, federal contractors will not be paid during this time and will not be eligible for back pay. Even if you want to work unpaid, federal law prohibits the government from accepting volunteer work.
Of the 1.75 million people employed by the federal government, only 250,000 are based in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Within the Fifth District, there are 11,403 men and women serving the American people as employees of the federal government; 27,149 if you include both current employees and retirees. There are 38,000 federal workers in the Greater Kansas City Metropolitan area.
The majority work in federal offices across the nation as police officers, lawyers, correctional officers, mechanics, environmentalists, nurses, mine inspectors and more. Government employees inspect the food we eat, the medicine we use, and the places we work; they defend our country and maintain the safety of our nation's borders and our airline traffic; they care for our nation's veterans, and they make sure the elderly and those with disabilities get their Medicare and Social Security benefits