Congressman Adam Smith (WA-9), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, released the following statement regarding the pending shutdown of the federal government due to a lapse in funding:

 “If Congress cannot agree on or pass a budget for the remaining 2011 fiscal year, the government will shut down starting Friday, April 8, 2011 at midnight. I remain hopeful that a government shutdown will be averted. However, prudent management requires that we consider the implications of a shutdown if no funding bill is passed.

“If a shutdown occurs, the government stops all “non-essential” services. Services deemed essential for the safety of human life and protection of property will continue to operate, including the armed forces, border protection, air traffic controllers, and police and fire departments. For more information about how you and your family could be impacted, my office has posted answers to several frequently asked questions on the web.

“In the event a shutdown occurs, my staff will be answering constituent inquiries, pursuing casework as best they can, and assisting with legislative issues. This is a stressful time for many people who deal with the government, including federal workers and military families, and my office will be here to serve the 9th district.

“A shutdown would harm our economic recovery and cost our nation valuable jobs and money. As we move forward in budget negotiations, it is important that we work together to pass a responsible federal budget.”

What a Federal Government Shutdown Means to You and Your Family

The following is a list of frequently asked questions on how a government shutdown could impact you and your family.

Will I Still Get My Social Security and Medicare Benefits?

Yes. Benefits to this crucial program do not go through the appropriations process, so the Social Security Administration will continue to mail checks. However, a number of Social Security employees will be furloughed, which means services like new Social Security claims, hearings, or resolving complaints may not be processed in a timely manner.

Will Mail Be Delivered?

Yes. According to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the U.S. Postal Service is self-sustaining and will continue mail delivery, retail service, and other operations in the event of a government shutdown. The Postal Service is essentially funded through the sale of postage.

Will I Get My Tax Refund?

Yes with a possible delay. Unlike the shutdowns of the 1990s, this one is going to take place during the tax preparation and filing season, creating confusion about the status of IRS operations. Tax forms still need to be postmarked to the IRS by Monday, April 18. Electronic tax returns should be processed normally during a shutdown, but paper returns will not be processed, which may result in delayed refunds to a number of Americans. 

Will Veteran Benefits Continue?

Yes with a possible delay. VA hospitals will remain open, and VBA disability compensation will be paid. New pension, education, or disability benefits could be delayed due to furloughed administrative staff.

How are Active Duty Military Impacted?

The Department of Defense has released guidelines related to the continued operation of our Armed Forces in the event of a shutdown: “All military personnel will continue in a normal duty status regardless of their affiliation with excepted or non-excepted activities.”

Additionally, Secretary Gates has guaranteed that military members will be paid as normal for their service during a government shutdown.

Because any delay in paycheck delivery would be a hardship on military and civilian personnel and their families, there is currently legislation pending in the House to pay troops if a budget compromise isn’t reached by Friday evening.

Further information on a government shutdown and military personnel is available from the Department of Defense’s website.

Will Unemployment Benefits Be Affected?

Depending on the length of the shutdown, 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. In the event of an extended shutdown, benefits could be reduced or stopped.  Please contact Washington State’s Employment Security Department if you have further questions regarding your unemployment benefits at 1-800-318-6022.

Can I visit a National Park during a shutdown?

No. According to the House Committee on Natural Resources, parks would be closed to public use. “Critical” personnel would be kept in place for resource protection (and to tell people that arrive that they are closed). The National Park Service has informed the Natural Resources Committee that they do not expect to close access to open-entrance park land. According to CRS Report RL34680, 368 National Park Service sites closed during the last government shutdown, a loss of approximately 7 million visitors.