Soon to be temporarily laid off or forced to work without pay, civil servants in the United States received official notifications on Thursday, September 28, of the paralysis of the federal state budget, which will begin on Sunday if the elected representatives of Congress fail to hear.
Employees of the federal administration and the military have been preparing for this “shutdown” for several days. But as the deadline approaches, and while Democrats and Republicans seem deadlocked, it seems more and more inevitable. Ministries and public services put themselves in battle order and informed their staff of the consequences to anticipate. “Designated and pre-notified employees would be temporarily placed on technical unemployment, which means that they would not be authorized to work or use the resources of the ministry,” warned the Ministry of Health, in an email sent Thursday to employees and read by AFP. They will then have to wait for the end of the “shutdown” to receive their salary, retroactively.
The longest period of budgetary paralysis in the United States lasted 35 days in December 2018 and January 2019. Services considered “essential” would be maintained. The only solution to avoid a brutal cut on Sunday October 1 at 12:00 a.m.: a last minute agreement between Democrats and Republicans. In the Senate, a compromise was found on a short-term budget proposal that would provide a few additional weeks to agree. It is supported by the vast majority of elected officials. The situation is, however, blocked in the House of Representatives. A handful of Trumpist Republican elected officials refuse to lend their voice to any text that would include financial aid to Ukraine.
The White House continues to denounce these elected officials who are blocking any agreement, just over a year before the presidential election. The leader of the Democrats in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, attacked the leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives. “A dozen extremists (...) have more influence with (Kevin) McCarthy than the majority of his party and the vast majority of the House of Representatives over which he presides,” he denounced. .
With a large portion of civil servants on technical unemployment, ministries will operate slowly until the same budgetary text is adopted by both houses of Congress. The Department of Health would see “a reduction in staff numbers in almost all divisions for the duration of this period,” details the email received by staff. “Many of our most essential programs and activities would continue but with reduced staffing,” it further clarified.
In the event of a paralysis lasting just a few days, “our soldiers would be forced to continue working but would do so without pay, (...) and thousands of their civilian colleagues would be made unemployed,” declared the spokesperson. word from the Pentagon, Sabrina Singh. “A shutdown is the worst situation,” she added, “so we continue to ask Congress to do its job and fund the government.”
A paralysis would have very significant consequences in a multitude of areas, from food aid which could be reduced to national parks which would no longer be maintained. Calls to tax centers will go unanswered, the Treasury Department said. This is also likely to seriously disrupt air traffic, since air traffic controllers and officials from the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) will be affected. In terms of transport, a “shutdown” could have “disruptive and dangerous” consequences, US Transport Minister Pete Buttigieg warned on Wednesday.
The spokesperson for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), interviewed Thursday morning during a press briefing, indicated that she sees this “as an avoidable risk for the American economy”. “We encourage the parties to come together to reach consensus on ways to finance the US government,” added Julie Kozack.