Federal government shutdown: Chicago and Illinois

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Will a looming federal government shutdown be a catastrophe if it happens? The I-Team looks at potential impact if Congress doesn't reach an agreement by midnight Friday. (WLS)

If Congress fails to pass a spending bill Friday, many of the nearly 80-thousand federal employees in Chicago and across Illinois will be on the sidelines during the political melee...or at least they will be unpaid.

Only those deemed "essential" will stay on the job and key government functions - such as national security operations and law enforcement work - will remain up and running. Other offices could completely shut down.

With hopes diminished for a deal this week on immigration reform, Congressional leaders were negotiating a temporary spending bill that could fund the popular Children's Health Insurance Program.

On Wednesday, the bill's passage was not assured, as Democrats weighed the potential political risk of voting against the measure. If the talks collapse, and the government shuts down, thousands of federal government workers throughout the state would be furloughed.

It wouldn't be the first time. There have been a dozen other government closures the past three decades, most recently in 2013. By Thursday afternoon The White House had detailed contingency plans for major government agencies posted on a special web page. Many of the plans are reboots of 16-day shutdown five years ago.

Based on previous spending stalemates, here's what you can expect:

- Non-essential portions of the federal workforce will be furloughed.

- No passport applications are expected to accepted and processing delays are likely for those in the hopper. However, a state department spokesperson says the agency has not made any decisions yet on how to handle a potential government shutdown. She said the agency will do its best to "minimize the impact on the American people."

- National Parks and cemeteries will have reduced staff but the administration plans for them to be open.

- Most military ops will be unaffected but long term projects service personnel will see their paychecks delayed.

- Social Security benefits will continued-- it is a mandatory program.

- And the mail will go through: the Postal Service has own funding mechanism.

- Air travel impact-should be minimal, all could be slightly slower than usual because non-essential personnel won't be at work.

- As for members of Congress, where the budget mess begins and ends-- they still get paid.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in Chicago says many of their prosecutors will be on the job; although without funding they will not receive paychecks through the duration of the freeze. Most federal buildings will not be open to the public. While funding expires on Saturday, the effects will be mostly seen beginning on Monday when the nonessential members of an 80,200-strong federal workforce in Illinois don't show up to work. Without funding, the law requires them to be furloughed without pay.

The last time there was a government shutdown it was such a p-r disaster for the National Park Service that the Trump administration is trying to head off pictures of veterans being turned away from war memorials and locked national cemeteries. Tonight there is simple uncertainty as to what this shutdown would look like; and which agencies would truly be closed.
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