4217661984_fec1fcdf69You’ve no doubt heard that our Federal Government is shut down. Every news source is covering it, and everyone on Twitter is jabbering away. Of course there’s good reason to be outraged: It seems our government is better at creating problems than finding solutions. No matter whose fault the current crisis is, it’s imperative that you understand how it affects business as usual.

Perhaps the most frightening part is that Congress is battling over just a few months of funding. They’re going to have to go through this song and dance again toward the end of the year to create a spending plan for 2014. And, in just over two weeks on October 17th, they’ve got to deal with the issue of raising the debt ceiling. From our current perspective, either of these necessities being accomplished in a timely and orderly manner seems doubtful.

If you’ve been wondering how we got into this mess, check out the New York Times’ infographic about the process the spending bill went through.

The total impact this shutdown will have is as of yet unknown, but it will create concentric rings that ripple out far from its epicenter. It could end up costing well over 2 billion dollars (with additional unforeseeable negative impacts) if it comes close to the shutdowns of 95-96. The Washington Post did a phenomenal job covering the important parts of the shutdown, but we’ll touch on many of the ones that will affect business owners here.

  1. If you’re in need of funding, and prefer to go through the SBA…well, that might be hard. Here’s a good list of the “SBA loans you can and can’t get during a government shutdown.”
  2. Certain employees of the Federal Government are still expected to work, even if some of them won’t be paid until Congress can get its rear in gear. And then it’s possible that they won’t get paid for the time they worked during the shutdown; Congress has to vote to pay them retroactively. And many agencies have been affected. For instance, you’ll still receive mail, but most of the EPA is down.
  3. The SEC will continue to function, at least for awhile, though “anything that’s not deemed an emergency gets shut down.” Non-emergency activities includes “ongoing litigation, rule-making, and interpretive functions.” In other words, regulating the financial market is going to drop to a low.
  4. There will be myriad closures and partial closures throughout the government, which might limit everything from trademark approval to applying for new contracts. For a full list of agencies and how severely they are effected, see this easy-to-read list that CNN put together.
  5. If you’re planning any out-of-country travel, and need to apply for a passport or renew your old one, you still can: “Passports are funded by the fees paid by applicants, making them immune to budget politics.”

Have government shutdowns happened before? Sure have. It seems the 80s were a particularly active time for shutdowns. Unfortunately, there’s not much to be done about it now, except maybe harass our elected officials. Hopefully there will be an actual compromise reached soon (though I’m beginning to think no one in Congress actually knows the definition of “compromise”), but even if it lasts for a couple days, our economy will feel it.

How are you handling the shutdown? What steps have you taken to continue operations?

[CC photo credit to Jasoon and Tom Lohdan]