Updated 04/06/2011 05:50 AM
What would a federal government shutdown look like?
After talks between House Speaker John Boehner and President Barack Obama failed to lead to a budget deal, the threat of a federal government shutdown looms. Our Steve Ference reports on what it might mean for you.
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ALBANY, N.Y. -- "It makes me think I can't apply for benefits," said Amani Kwame.
He's trying to change his military status, fearing a possible federal government shutdown if leaders in Washington can't come up with a budget after a half-dozen budget extenders.
"In the short run, it could be a fairly considerable mess," said UAlbany Professor of Public Administration Jim Fossett.
He believes we have a pretty good idea what a shutdown would look like based on the last one in 1996 where 800,000 federal employees were furloughed.
"They will supposedly lock the doors to keep you from coming in. They can't let you work if there's no way to get paid," said Fossett.
The passport process would stop and Fossett says federal courts could shutdown. But the Post Office would apparently stay open, easing concerns for those relying on government checks.
"You will still get your Social Security check, you can still go to the doctor and the doctor will get paid under Medicare," said Bill Ferris, AARP's New York State Legislative Representative. "But say you had a problem with your Social Security or your Medicare, you may not get your answer or your question answered right away, because there could be some staff that are furloughed."
Then again, said the longer the stoppage, the deeper the impact.
"Because then the money will slowly run out on certain programs. For example, Meals on Wheels is a program. Any type of grant program that not-for-profits get from the federal government, that money could go away after a period of time," said Ferris.
Bottom line, it's a question of what services are seen as "essential" and what aren't. For instance, VA hospitals like the one you see in back of me would stay open because they're seen as essential. But veterans' benefits that get paid out may not be on time. They could be delayed given the fact that so many workers could be furloughed.
Fossett said, "The Army continues to get paid. The State Department continues to get paid. Anybody involved in things like taking care of federal prisoners or directly providing health care."
And while Fossett said closing national landmarks, museums and parks could hurt the economy, the true cost may be political.
"I mean who winds up getting blamed for it? That's certainly something that all the sides are trying to avoid," said Fossett.
"If the government shuts down, a lot of people will be disappointed and angry," said Kwame.
If there's no budget agreement by midnight Friday, the shutdown begins.