What happens if the government shuts down?

If President Obama and congressional Republicans do not reach an agreement on how to fund the final seven months of the fiscal year, some military veterans might not receive benefits checks and other Americans would be unable to apply for Social Security. The State Department might not issue new passports, unemployment statistics would not publish as scheduled, museums and national parks would close, and worse – piles of elephant manure might pile up in a National Zoo parking lot because workers can’t ship it away for composting…

“The main impact was a vast amount of work associated with building shutdown plans and determining exactly who was and wasn’t essential, and all the morale issues associated with the fear of impending implementation of those plans,” said one SEA member who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely. “I worked hard to get as many as possible of our then-1,200 or so employees deemed essential as I could, and that helped with morale.”

Even if nonessential workers wanted to work without pay, they could face fines of up to $5,000 or up to two years in prison for violating a federal law that prohibits agencies from accepting volunteer labor.