The Government Shutdown: 8 Things VARs Need To Know4:00 PM EST Thu. Oct. 03, 2013
The U.S. Congress stands toe-to-toe at a budget impasse that has caused the federal government to shut down as the clock struck midnight on Monday. As a result, 800,000 federal employees found themselves labeled "unessential" and were sent home for an open-ended vacation Tuesday morning, and many government offices were closed or left with a skeleton crew to run critical business. Outside of the government, the effects of the shutdown are spreading as many solution providers and tech businesses are realizing the very real effects this will have on business. Here are eight ways the shutdown may directly affect you or your business.
Upon entering shutdown mode, the government itself also largely went offline. The Library of Congress' website that used to be reliable for up-to-date information on the Senate and House's progress has come to a halt along with several others, including the Federal Trade Commission and Agricultural Department. Others, like the IRS, still have visible websites but will not be updated. In a time of extreme uncertainty, finding resources that shed light on the government's steps toward a solution is harder than ever.
Any deal not yet finalized between the government and any other agency is stalled until further notice, leaving the companies that rely on the government for income out of luck. Stalled deals have prompted a second wave of economic shutdown; a company unable to meet payroll as a result of a deal not going through often has no choice but to furlough it's own employees.
"It's terrible. I was just watching the news, and they have actually found some people who said 'It's not so bad, there's nothing wrong.' And I think to myself, I wish those people could have been in the office when I had to tell people they needed to take vacation and some of my folks don't have vacation to take," said Tony Jimenez, founder, president and CEO of MicroTech. "They are taking leave without pay, or they are trying to figure out how to make ends meet. And if this goes on very long, there will be a lot more folks from my company being affected."
Among those deemed unessential and subsequently out of work for now is the Mars Curiosity Rover. Though a few NASA personnel remain on site to ensure the safety of the astronauts currently in the International Space Station, those responsible for the Rover had to put the robot to sleep and step away until the government reconvenes. Last week, the Curiosity Rover tweeted "Waters of Mars: I found H2O molecules bound in rocks/dust, not liquid water. When heated to 150-300 C, the minerals release water vapor." The next tweet contained an apology for its leave of absence during the government shutdown.
The law says that government employees on furlough are forbidden from doing work outside of the office -- which means turn off that BlackBerry phone. Employees can't check their email or receive work-related phone calls.
Part of what makes the move interesting is that the government now has to call all of its employees' personal phones or use social media or personal emails to tell employees to return to work when the shutdown is resolved.
If the shutdown continues for more than a few weeks, the Securities and Exchange Commission will most likely run out of funds, according to an SEC statement. While the countdown has already started, the last shutdown, between 1995 and 1996, lasted 27 days.
This will affect the companies currently filing for IPOs, most notably Twitter, which announced on Sept. 12 that it had already filed the paperwork through, what else, a tweet.
Even though the SEC will remain open until extra funds run out, close to 94 percent of its employees are furloughed during the government shutdown.
The Small Business Association has essentially shut down, which means that its lending programs are also closed for business. What that breaks down to is that existing loans will continue, but the SBA will not issue any new loans. The only exceptions going forward will be disaster-related loans, such as the ones given out after Hurricane Sandy.
Along with many government websites, government-run application programming interfaces (APIs) are also shutdown. Most of the effect will be felt by those looking to connect with data statistics, such as those from the Census API or Data.gov. Certain apps such as Weather.gov are still functioning because they are seen as essential to the well-being of the country. As with other areas of the shutdown, there is no clear indication that there is a way to inform developers that their access to government APIs is available once the shutdown has been resolved.
If you are looking to add a new employee to the company and are unsure about his or her legal status to work in the country, you may be out of luck. E-Verify, a government site that lets employers check the legal status of their future employees, was shut down with a notice on its front page that said it was unavailable until further notice.
The website shutdown does not affect Form I-9 obligations -- those still have to be submitted within three days of an employee's start date.