The entire country is waiting to see if Congress can reach an agreement on a new government spending bill, or at least extend the current funding measure. If not, the federal government could be shut down at midnight on Friday.
What would that mean for California?
Perhaps most visibly, national parks would close, so your trip to Yosemite or Sequoia would have to be postponed. Your passport or visa applications could be delayed, as could some mortgage approvals if federal agencies are involved.
That said, state officials don’t seem to be losing any sleep over the prospect of a short-term government shutdown. H.D. Palmer with Gov. Jerry Brown’s Department of Finance says the big-ticket items would operate as usual.
“Most of the major federal programs, like Social Security or unemployment benefits, there’s not any immediate impact or effect at all,” Palmer says.
Essential government services, including the military and the Transportation Security Administration, would continue to operate. Mail would also be delivered.
The Department of Finance says there are about 252,000 federal employees in California. Economist Robert Kleinhenz with Beacon Economics says those workers could feel the most tangible effects of a shutdown, should their paychecks be delayed.
“For people who are living from paycheck to paycheck, there’s a real possibility that they’ll be unable to pay bills,” he says.
Kleinhenz also notes non-government employees who still rely on the federal government in some way could also be inconvenienced. He remembers how he was affected during the 2013 government shutdown.
“With the shutdown, the Department of Commerce was shut down, as was the Department of Labor. And their data collection and dissemination activities were ceased,” he says. “So for a period of time we did not have data that we typically would rely on to analyze the economy.” So that kind of economic analysis could not be completed in a timely manner.
The federal government shut down for 16 days in 2013.
At that time the state took a survey of its programs, Palmer says, to see if any funding or services would be affected — and he says his department is prepared to do that again.
“We certainly hope that we don’t have to, but we are able to do that very quickly if we need to,” he says.
In any case, a brief shutdown would not have a significant impact on California, Palmer says. But if it were drawn out, programs that rely on federal administrators or federal dollars may be affected.
Whether a shutdown can be avoided this time around seems to depend on whether Democrats and Republicans can come to an agreement on extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, while also beefing up border security.
Not surprisingly, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris laid the blame for a possible shutdown on the GOP.
“We should both fund the government and protect the more than 200,000 Dreamers in California from deportation,” she said in a statement. “It is deeply unfortunate that Republicans who control the House, Senate and White House are rejecting bipartisan compromises and playing political games with the lives of Dreamers and the millions of federal employees, veterans and military families living in California who rely on critical services.”
Lawmakers have extended the current spending bill several times since October.