The longest ever government shutdown drags on, as President Trump continues to demand more than $5 billion for a U.S.-Mexico border wall and Democrats continue to say they won't agree to any new money for it. A number of agencies have been shut since Dec. 22, meaning no employees are being paid and some are not working. Democrats continue to say they won't agree to any new money for the wall, and Trump has said he won't declare a national emergency even after the White House started to lay the groundwork for one.

The effects on Americans who rely on the federal safety net are growing. Here's everything to know about this shutdown. If we missed anything, or if you have a tip, there is a form below for you to ask us a question.

What’s the latest?

Expand for answers

What are Congress and the president doing?

There's still no clear path forward for Trump and congressional Democrats. The president has rejected the idea of reopening the government while continuing negotations with Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested Trump should not deliver the State of the Union address from the Capitol during the shutdown; in apparent retaliation, he said he was canceling a planned trip by her and other members of Congress to Afghanistan, also citing the shutdown.

The House has voted on bills to reopen more shuttered government departments, but that legislation has already been declared dead-on-arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate because of a veto threat from Trump.

What exactly is a government shutdown?

Exactly what it sounds like. Much of the federal government gets its funding from annual budget appropriations decided by Congress. The majority of the government has had such funding in place since the budget year began Oct. 1, but other agencies had been operating on a series of temporary extensions, the last of which expired Dec. 21 at midnight.

Since funding wasn't enacted for those agencies, they were partially shut down. Some of the employees working at those agencies have stayed on the job nonetheless, while others have been furloughed. In both cases, they will be unpaid until spending authority is restored.

Those who remain at work are called "excepted" while those who are furloughed are called "non-excepted" (not "essential" vs. "non-essential," which are the more commonly used, but not official, terms). Individual agencies make these decisions in what the government calls contingency plans.

Excepted employees are those whose jobs involve the safety of human life, the protection of property, or certain other types of work designated by their agencies as necessary to continue. Excepted employees continue reporting for work as normal during a shutdown, though for the meantime they would not be paid for that time.

Employees who are "non-excepted" are put on unpaid furlough. They are not to work while on furlough, even on a volunteer basis. They cannot substitute annual leave or other forms of paid time off for that unpaid time.

Note: Some agencies, and thus the employees working in them, are "exempt" from a shutdown because they do not get their funding through the congressional appropriations process. The largest of these is the U.S. Postal Service, which operates on income from postage and the items it sells. Other agencies, or parts of them, also have funding not subject to annual appropriations — for example, through fees they charge for their services, or from trust funds or multi-year budgets. Employees whose salaries are funded in that way continue working, and getting paid, as normal.

How long did other shutdowns last?

The partial government shutdown has stretched 20 full days; the longest federal funding gap since 1980 was 21 days. Several shutdowns were resolved in a matter of days as negotiators worked out a deal to reopen the government.

Longest funding gaps under current shutdown rules

Note: There were substantial federal funding gaps in the late 1970s, including a 17-day long gap beginning Sept. 30, 1978, but gaps were taken less seriously before legal opinions by then-Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti said most government work had to cease until funded by Congress.

The guidelines that a funding gap should lead to a government shutdown emerged in the early 1980s, and short federal funding gaps were common in that decade. Since then, they have grown less common, but stretched longer as parties dug in.

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Here's why other shutdowns happened and how they were resolved.

What are the legal challenges to the shutdown?

On Tuesday, a judge ruled against a consolidated claim that the National Treasury Employees Union and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association filed against the government, saying it would be "profoundly irresponsible" to issue an order that would result in thousands of employees staying home from work. The NTEU alleged that more than 400,000 federal employees — including tens of thousands of NTEU members — are being forced to work without pay during the partial government closure. The NATCA accused federal officials of depriving controllers of their "hard-earned compensation without the requisite due process." The largest federal employee union, the American Federation of Government Employees, has also filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, alleging that hundreds of thousands of federal employees are illegally being forced to work without pay.

Give me the basics on the shutdown and federal employees?

Expand for answers

How many federal employees have been affected?

Of the about 800,000 employees in the nine Cabinet departments and various smaller agencies whose funding has lapsed, about 380,000 have been furloughed without pay while the rest are still working without pay.

Many are about to lose their first paycheck since being furloughed or beginning to work without guaranteed pay.

Will employees in agencies without funding get back pay?

Employees who remain on the job are guaranteed to be paid. Here's how Office of Personnel Management guidance puts it: "Agencies will incur obligations to pay for services performed by excepted employees during a lapse in appropriations, and those employees will be paid after Congress passes and the President signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution."

In past partial shutdowns, federal employees who were furloughed also were paid later. Congress has passed a bill to do so again, although in past shutdowns, such language more commonly has been attached to the broader measures that ultimately restored agency funding.

In both cases, exactly when they would be paid would depend on the timing of the new spending authority and the payroll cycle.

How does a shutdown affect federal employee benefits?

Health insurance coverage continues during unpaid time. The enrollee share of the premiums accumulates and is withheld from salary once the employee returns to pay status. For those enrolled in long-term care or vision-dental insurance programs and who pay through payroll withholdings, premiums accumulate for several unpaid pay periods. After that, they would be billed directly.

Life insurance coverage continues without cost to the employee for an unpaid period up to a year.The shutdown would not affect future retirement benefits for current employees unless it drags on much longer than any past shutdowns. A civil service retirement benefit is based on service time and the "high three" ­­– the average salary of the highest-paid consecutive three years with the government. Up to six months of unpaid leave in a calendar year counts as creditable service time. Similarly, the high three is based on the salary rate, not the salary actually received, for up to six months of unpaid leave in a year.

For those with flexible spending accounts, payroll deductions stop for those in unpaid status. They remain enrolled in the program (called FSAFEDS) but can't be reimbursed for eligible health care claims until they return to pay status and your payroll deductions can be made. Payroll deductions will be subsequently collected to match their annual election amount. Eligible dependent care expenses incurred during that time, though, are reimbursed up to balance in their dependent care accounts, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

Because Thrift Savings Plan investments also are made through payroll withholding, they cannot be made for employees in unpaid status. For those under the Federal Employees Retirement System employer contributions also are not made, because they are based on salary received. Once those employees return to paid status, their personal investments and agency contributions will be made retroactively from the back pay issued. Employees under the older Civil Service Retirement receive no government contributions.

Employees enrolled in their agency child care subsidy program should contact their agency personnel offices for information.

During a lapse in appropriations, all paid leave or other paid time off is cancelled in affected agencies. For employees who had scheduled "use or lose" vacation time (annual leave) during that period, "as long as the leave was properly scheduled in advance, agencies must restore any annual leave that was forfeited because of the lapse in appropriations—regardless of whether the affected employees were furloughed or excepted from the furlough," the OPM has said.

Can furloughed employees take outside employment or draw unemployment benefits?

They may take outside jobs, but even while furloughed, they remain subject to government ethics rules restricting outside income and conflict of interest policies.They also may apply for unemployment benefits, which are paid under state laws. However, those laws typically impose a waiting period of a week or more before benefits begin, and further require that anyone paid later for furlough time must return any unemployment benefits they received.

Can furloughed employees take loans or withdrawals from their Thrift Savings Plan accounts?

Normally, investors in the 401(k)-style program for federal employees cannot take out loans while in unpaid status because loans must be repaid through payroll withholding. But there is an exception for a partial shutdown since there is an expectation that employees will be back in paid status by the time those repayments would have to begin.

A "financial hardship" withdrawal also may be an option if the individual's situation meets the qualifications for taking such a withdrawal. Those withdrawals are not repaid and thus permanently deplete their savings, however.

Incidentally, because the TSP is not affected by the partial shutdown — it is one of those self-funding agencies — it is continuing its operations as normal, including making distributions to those taking withdrawals from their accounts after retirement.

Federal employees who are going unpaid because of the partial government shutdown do not need to worry, at least for now, about being declared in default on loans they have taken against their Thrift Savings Plan retirement savings accounts, the TSP said.

Has the shutdown affected pay of federal employees in agencies not affected by the partial shutdown?

No. Almost all federal employees are paid on a biweekly cycle. Of the four major payroll providers that agencies use, three are operated by agencies affected by the partial shutdown — the Interior and Agriculture departments and the General Services Administration. However, they have kept enough employees on the job to continue making pay distributions.

What about members of Congress, political appointees and the president?

Here's what a Congressional Research Service report has to say: "With regard to the President's pay, Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution forbids the salary of the President to be reduced while he or she is in office, thus effectively guaranteeing the President of compensation regardless of any shutdown action."

Congress, including both members and staff, is not affected because it is funded by one of the appropriations bills that did pass into law last fall.

In any event, the CRS report says regarding members Congress that "Due to their constitutional responsibilities and a permanent appropriation for congressional pay, Members of Congress are not subject to furlough. Additionally, Article I, Section 6, of the Constitution states that Members of Congress 'shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States,' and the 27th Amendment states, 'No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.'"

Dozens of lawmakers have said they will refuse or donate their pay as long as any part of the government is closed.

Guidance from the Office of Personnel Management says the large majority of political appointees "are not subject to furloughs because they are considered to be entitled to the pay of their offices solely by virtue of their status as an officer, rather than by virtue of the hours they work. In other words, their compensation is attached to their office, and, by necessary implication of the President's authority to appoint such employees, their service under such an appointment creates budgetary obligations without the need for additional statutory authorization." The exception is that the relatively few political appointees in the Senior Executive Service, under 1,000, are subject to being furloughed because they fall under the regular federal employee leave policies.

Has the shutdown affected federal retirees?

Annuity payments come from a trust fund that is not affected by a lapse in appropriations, so the money is available to pay them. Annuity payments are paid around the first business day of each month. The retirement processing functions at the Office of Personnel Management also are not funded through appropriations, so they continue as normal.

However, for federal employees who applied to retire during the shutdown period, there are potential delays. That's because before OPM can process the application, the employing agency must send it certain information, and staff may not be available in shuttered agencies to do that.

And with no confirmation from OPM that someone has retired, the Thrift Savings Plan continues to treat that person as still currently employed. As a result, they cannot take advantage of the wider withdrawal options available to retirees.

Where in the country are federal workers going without pay?

The most federal workers affected by the shutdown are, unsurprisingly, in the Washington area. But workers going without pay are not confined to D.C.

Where the shutdown could

have the biggest impact

Number of federal employees in agencies

affected by the shutdown per 100,000 workers

250

500

1,000

1,500

NH

WA

VT

MT

ME

ND

MN

1,500

OR

MA

WI

ID

SD

NY

RI

WY

MI

CT

IA

PA

NE

NV

OH

NJ

IN

IL

UT

DE

CO

WV

VA

KS

CA

MO

KY

MD

NC

1,569

TN

OK

AZ

AR

NM

SC

MS

GA

AL

AK

D.C.

LA

TX

1,699

12,653

per 100,000

workers

FL

HI

Note: As of June 2018. Map does not include 240,000 workers for whom location was not reported.

Where the shutdown could have

the biggest impact

Number of federal employees in

agencies affected by the shutdown per 100,000 workers

250

500

1,000

1,500

NH

WA

VT

MT

ME

ND

MN

1,500

OR

MA

WI

ID

SD

NY

RI

WY

MI

CT

IA

PA

NE

NV

NJ

OH

IN

IL

UT

DE

CO

WV

VA

KS

CA

MO

KY

MD:

NC

1,569

TN

OK

AZ

AR

NM

SC

D.C.:

MS

GA

AL

12,653

per 100,000

workers

AK

LA

TX

1,699

FL

HI

Note: As of June 2018. Map does not include 240,000 workers

for whom location was not reported.

Where the shutdown could have

the biggest impact

Number of federal employees in agencies

affected by the shutdown per 100,000 workers

250

500

1,000

1,500

NH

WA

VT

MT

ME

ND

MN

1,500

OR

MA

WI

ID

SD

NY

RI

MI

WY

CT

PA

IA

NE

NJ

NV

OH

IN

IL

DE

UT

WV

CO

CA

VA

MD:

KS

MO

KY

1,569

NC

TN

D.C.:

OK

AR

AZ

SC

NM

12,653

per 100,000

workers

GA

AL

MS

AK

LA

TX

1,699

FL

HI

Note: As of June 2018. Map does not include 240,000 workers for whom

location was not reported.

Where the shutdown could have the biggest impact

Number of federal employees in agencies

affected by the shutdown per 100,000 workers

250

500

1,000

1,500

NH

WA

VT

MT

ME

ND

MN

1,500

OR

MA

WI

ID

SD

NY

RI

MI

WY

CT

PA

IA

NE

NJ

NV

OH

IN

IL

DE

UT

WV

CO

CA

VA

MD

KS

MO

KY

1,569

NC

TN

D.C.

OK

AR

AZ

SC

NM

12,653

per 100,000

workers

GA

AL

MS

AK

LA

TX

1,699

FL

HI

Note: As of June 2018. Map does not include 240,000 workers for whom location was not reported.

A Post analysis found that as a percentage of all workers, federal employees affected by the shutdown are as common in Montana and Alaska as they are in Maryland. The top places outside the Washington area where agency workers affected by the shutdown are most concentrated are Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, South Dakota, West Virginia and Idaho.

See the state-by-state breakdown here.

What about contractor employees?

The government relies heavily on a contractor workforce for services ranging from building operations to providing provide expertise that the government lacks, particularly in hard-to-hire areas such as engineering and information technology, where federal agencies have lagged behind the private sector.

The status of contractor employees varies when the agencies they are servicing go into a partial shutdown. Considerations include whether the work is deemed necessary for reasons such as the protection of health or safety; whether the federal employees who supervise the contract will be on the job or not; whether the work could continue without such supervision if not; whether the work is funded under a multi-year appropriation; whether the contractor has been paid in advance; and much more.

Whether they are paid for working time they miss due to a shutdown of those agencies is up to their own employer.

How are employees coping?

For many, it's tough. Some federal workers and contractors affected by the shutdown have turned to crowdfunding sites, like GoFundMe, to raise funds for rent and bills.

The Coast Guard, which receives funding from the Department of Homeland Security, published online a tipsheet for furloughed employees, offering a variety of suggestions, from garage sales to serving as a "mystery shopper." "Bankruptcy is a last option," the document from the Coast Guard Support Program, says.

What are the effects on America?

Expand for answers

Will I still be able to visit the national parks and monuments?

This year, Trump administration officials have made a precedent-setting decision to keep national parks and public land "as accessible as possible" in the event of a shutdown, Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift told The Post. Officials said the anticipated plan is to keep many parks open for hiking, wildlife watching, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Open-air parks and monuments in Washington will remain open. Other services that require park staff, including campgrounds and concessions, will close.

The parks were shuttered during two past government shutdowns, in 1995 and 2013, when Republicans controlled Congress and a Democrat sat in the White House. It was a political disaster, one Trump officials hope to avoid because they don't want to be blamed for ruining vacations or keeping veterans from war memorials.

The Park Service has tapped entrance fees to pay for expanded operations at its most popular sites as the practice of keeping parks open but understaffed has become unsustainable at some of its most beloved sites.

Will the shutdown also halt the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election?

Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation will continue as planned because it is funded by a permanent indefinite appropriation, rather than an annual appropriation dependent on Congress. Employees with the special counsel's office are exempt from furlough.

Will my mail still arrive?

Yes. The approximately 500,000 Postal Service employees are exempt from furlough because the Postal Service is self-funded.

See the full list of what closes during a government shutdown.

Will I still receive Social Security or other benefits?

Recipients of Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), unemployment insurance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), food stamps and some other programs will continue to receive their benefits. The programs' spending is not dependent on Congress's explicit funding.

Will I get a tax refund if the government is still closed?

It looks like yes; Trump administration lawyers ruled Monday that refunds could be processed during the shutdown, a dramatic reversal of past legal precedent.

Does the shutdown affect food stamps?

The Trump administration pledged that Americans will receive food stamps through February, but officials could not promise those benefits will continue if the shutdown lasts until March.

Congress has approved funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program through only January, fueling concern food benefits used by 38 million Americans would expire amid the budget stalemate in Washington.But Agriculture Department officials said that they will give states the money for February's food stamps ahead of time — by Jan. 20 — to circumvent the expiration of federal appropriations. States, which administer the SNAP program, will have to ask for the money to be allocated earlier than they normally would.

What are the effects of the Department of Agriculture’s lack of funding on farmers?

The administration has extended a deadline for farmers to apply for relief after the trade war with China sent exports of soybean and other crops plummeting. Farmers who did not certify their crop production before the shutdown can't do so until the government is running again. Also, the government shutdown means several key economic reports and other economic data will be delayed — including measures of how many tons of surplus soybeans are still sitting unshipped in grain storage, for example.

What are the effects on the inspections of the nation’s food supply?

The Food and Drug Administration, which oversees 80 percent of the food supply, has suspended all routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in an interview. He said he's working on a plan to bring back inspectors as early as next week to resume inspections of high-risk facilities, which handle foods such as soft cheese or seafood, or have a history of problems.

What are the effects on federal prisons?

About 36,000 federal prison workers deemed "essential employees" by the U.S. government are working without pay across the nation. According to union officials at 10 prisons reached by The Washington Post, the number of employees who are not showing up for work has at least doubled since the shutdown began, requiring those who are showing up routinely to work double shifts. At at least one prison — Hazelton Federal Correctional Complex in West Virginia — the number of assaults on officers has increased since the shutdown, according to a union official there.

What are the effects on scientific research?

Of the 800,000 federal employees furloughed or working without pay, thousands are researchers. These include agency scientists at the Agriculture Department, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Geological Survey.

"The current government shutdown has far-reaching effects that put America's scientific progress at risk. While there are reports that agencies such as NOAA and the USGS are still issuing alerts about weather and natural hazards, much of the scientific research into how to prevent these kinds of disasters has stalled," said Christine McEntee, executive director of the American Geophysical Union. "This shutdown could affect the EPA's ability to meet deadlines for assessing chemicals, and NOAA isn't able to track fish for commercial harvesting or endangered species to protect them from passing ships."

What are the effects on government websites?

A rising number of federal websites are falling into disrepair.

In the past week, the number of outdated Web security certificates held by U.S. government agencies has exploded from about 80 to more than 130.

Various online pages run by the White House, the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Archives and the Department of Agriculture appear to be affected by the latest round of expirations.

Security experts say the issue could have unintended consequences for Internet users of all skill levels.

What are the effects on the Justice Department?

Many attorneys and judges at the Department of Justice are not working and cases are waiting. Justice Department employees involved in criminal investigations and prosecution are among those working without a paycheck.

The shutdown delays almost all federal civil cases, including discrimination cases, whistleblower cases, disciplinary cases and retaliation actions taken against federal employees. It further backlogs thousands of immigration court cases.

What are the effects on the TSA?

The Transportation Security Administration seems to have been noticeably impacted by the shutdown.

Airports across the country are facing staffing shortages as "many employees are reporting that they are not able to report to work due to financial limitations."

As of Jan. 16, numbers from the agency showed 6.1 percent of employees – nearly 1 out of every 16 workers – did not come to work.

TSA said the call-outs have forced three major airports — Atlanta, Houston and Miami — to operate under contingency plans meant to address various disruptions. Miami temporarily closed a terminal, and Houston has been operating with a major checkpoint closed.

As always, airlines and airport officials advise passengers to allow plenty of time to get through security.

Global Entry program applicants may face delays since many appointments have been canceled due to the shutdown. TSA's Precheck program, which is funded by user fees, is continuing to accept applications.

One small bright spot for TSA workers: Existing TSA money will be used to pay those who worked Dec. 22, the day the shutdown began; $500 bonuses will also be given to those who worked during the busy Christmas season.

What are the effects on the FAA?

During this shutdown, more than 24,000 Federal Aviation Administration employees have been working without pay, while more than 17,000 have been furloughed, including those who train and support air traffic controllers.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association has filed suit against President Trump and other federal officials, alleging they are being deprived of their "hard-earned compensation without the requisite due process."

In a show of support, Canadian air traffic controllers pitched in to send pizza to their American counterparts.

What are the effects on the economy and small businesses?

JPMorgan estimates the U.S. economy is losing more than $1.5 billion a week because of the shutdown, a fraction of the $20 trillion economy. Fitch Ratings warned Jan. 9 that an extended shutdown might damage the country's Triple-A credit rating. The Small Business Administration stopped processing new loans on Dec. 22.

What other issues are looming?

Deadlines are still imminent for several programs that could cease operations soon. Check out a timeline here.

What about the Washington area?

Expand for answers

What are the effects on tourism and businesses?

It's a slower month for tourism, but the partial shutdown has deepened the lull, with Smithsonian institutions closed.

Business owners, taxi drivers and others who rely on foot traffic have watched revenue slump as parts of the government ground to a halt. Businesses close to closed attractions are seeing a drop in customers. Non-Smithsonian museums are reporting an increase in visitors.

What about contractors and other companies that rely on the government?

The economic effect on greater Washington's government-centric business community is starting to extend beyond the smallest, most vulnerable companies to include multibillion-dollar companies.

Executives from the government services giant Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) said the shutdown is costing the company tens of millions of dollars as it approaches the end of its fiscal year. And representatives from the Aerospace Industries Association trade group said it could hurt U.S. exporters by holding up already-cumbersome export control paperwork.

Does the federal government have local bills to pay?

A top DC Water official said the Treasury Department emailed last week to say that it "will only collect and remit" about $10.5 million of the $16.5 million that federal agencies owe the city water and sewer authority for the second quarter of fiscal year 2019.

But, "since the Federal government pays in advance, its account is not past due, and DC Water is not contemplating shutting off water to any Federal properties," the agency said in a statement.

What effects are charities seeing?

The Capital Area Food Bank's Hunger Lifeline has received an influx of inquiries from furloughed and unpaid government workers, contractors and others who aren't sure when they'll see another paycheck. Nonprofit organizations that help struggling families say January and February are the worst two months for donations.

The Capital Area Food Bank, which serves about 700,000 people in the Washington region each year, distributes about 3 million meals in a typical January. This month, the nonprofit is expecting to see a 10 to 20 percent increase — or a difference of 300,000 to 600,000 meals, which could cost up to $300,000.

What are the effects on Metro?

Metro is feeling squeezed by the shutdown.

In a letter sent to U.S. senators representing the region that Metro serves, Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld estimated daily losses around $400,000 due to a decrease in daily rail and Metrobus ridership.

The transit agency has estimated federal workers make up 40 percent of its rush-hour ridership.

The impact could become more acute as the shutdown stretches on, because February Smartbenefits will not be distributed for the month if the shutdown stretches beyond Jan. 21.

If the shutdown persists, WMATA may be forced to ask local jurisdictions for more money to support its operating budget, scale back service to recoup some of its costs or find savings elsewhere.

Credits

Text written and compiled by Terri Rupar, Sarah Dunton, Eric Yoder, Lisa Rein and Katie Mettler. Design and development by Courtney Kan, Jake Crump and Benjamin Din.

Originally published Jan. 18, 2018.

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