The Government Has Shut Down…Now What? Power On!

At midnight, September 30, as many political experts predicted, the U.S. government started a partial shutdown of its operations. Nonessential employees woke up to the realization they are will be placed on an unannounced, non-specific furlough. In addition to this, things are getting interesting (and not in a good way) in some European nations, now.

While these developments are not big news to most of us, it does make me wonder how they will impact the industries that we serve. Will oil or natural gas prices spike, causing prime-use generator owners to experience cost overruns? Will our O&G industry clients change their production tactics in response?

A lot of these questions are academic and will be answered over the next few days. To get a handle on how the shutdown impacts our customers in the short term, I did some research. Of 10 key government services immediately impacted by the shutdown (per a USA Today report) only a few have any effect on our customers, and these aren’t critical to services.

Passports: This is perhaps the biggest threat to our customers, many of whom conduct business overseas. The State Department will continue to process passports until it runs out of funds. If you have an employee traveling overseas this fall that does not have a passport, I suggest you to have them apply immediately. At the minimum, there may be processing delays.

E-Verify: This system has shut down, so you won’t be able to check the federal records to verify the legal status of any current or prospective employees at this time.

Work Safety: Federal OSHA inspectors will cease workplace inspections unless there is evidence of imminent danger. So, if your operation is due for an inspection, you have a little extra time to ensure any outstanding compliance issues are handled.

Taxes: The IRS is suspending operations, as well, so any scheduled audits will be delayed. Corporations―even those who applied for extensions―should have filed by now and will not be affected, but personal-return refunds for extended returns may be delayed.

Of course, experts say a shutdown of even a few days will impact our economic recovery, which isn’t good news for any business or consumer. Government agencies can’t ignore the shutdown, because a federal law makes it a felony to spend taxpayer dollars without an appropriation from Congress.

We’ve had 17 shutdowns since 1977 (per the Congressional Research Service), most of which lasted only a few days or less. Will this one be different? Some experts say it might be, largely because the House of Representatives is so at odds with the Senate and the Oval Office.

Of course, these Representatives―and the President―will continue being paid during this ruckus, while an estimated one million federal employees will not. Maybe that’s the problem we need to address, to prevent this mess in the future.

The government may have dimmed the lights, but we’ll still Power On!