Almost every year now, the federal government has had to face the prospect of a total shutdown. Generally speaking, when the government shuts down, most, if not all, non-essential federal services and agencies may be forced to cease their operations until new funding legislation gets approved and signed. This can often result in unemployment or furlough of federal employees.
What Is Federal Shutdown And What Causes It?
To better understand how and why a federal shutdown occurs, it’d be worth noting that most federal agencies rely on and derive their budget from the funding allocation granted by Congress. So, when Congress fails to set and enact a budget before the current financial year ends, a federal shutdown can happen.
The approval of the proposed budget usually tends to become a long discussion about what programs to continue funding and what specific items should receive an appropriation from Congress. The entire process can be tricky, especially when members of Congress from both parties can’t come to an agreement.
To delve more into this, the two main parties in the mainly two-party system of the United States are the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. These two have different ideas on how to run and fund the federal government, which in some cases, affects how the discussions and the approval process will turn out.
Among the causes of a government shutdown is when the President doesn’t sign or refuses to sign the proposed budget bill sent by Congress. Again, this can also be attributed to the disagreements and further government discussions on what programs should receive funding.
More so, the latest issue concerning a federal shutdown is the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling refers to the maximum limit which the federal government is allowed to borrow to finance the expenses of the federal government. Congress has already voted several times to raise the debt ceiling. This is the only legal way by which the federal government can borrow more money from creditors and fund its current obligations under the federal budget.
What Happens During A Federal Shutdown?
As mentioned previously, when a federal shutdown happens, the services and functions of various federal agencies may get affected. Due to the lack of congressional funding, it can either be partially discontinued or completely halted.
To anticipate this, most federal agencies have developed their respective contingency plans to ensure that despite the budget and funding issues, essential services and functions will still get to be carried out.
Having contingency plans in place also allows them to prepare for how the shutdown would affect their employees. For instance, since a government shutdown can mean that offices might remain closed until funding has been placed, it can either result in some federal workers being left unemployed, or some will continue working even during a shutdown.
So, what will happen to the United States Postal Service (USPS) when the government shuts down? Will their services be limited or discontinued? Generally speaking, it may not be affected, and here are a few thoughts and explanations as to why.
- The US Post Office Isn’t Funded By Taxes
One of the reasons that can precisely explain why the US Postal Office is not going to be affected during a government shutdown is because it doesn’t derive the bulk of its budget and finances from the allocation given and approved by the government. Unlike most federal agencies who receive funding through taxes, USPS isn’t relying on them to fund their services and operating costs.
To put it simply, USPS is not financially aided by the government. Instead, it funds its operations from revenues raised from the sale of postage stamps, products, as well as other postal services.
- The US Post Office Has A Unique Self-Sustaining Structure
Whether or not Congress is able to pass a new budget, and whether or not the President signs the budget into law, the USPS won’t be affected, and mail will still be received and delivered by consumers due to it being an independent agency.
Under the Postal Reorganization Act, the US Postal Service was made an independent establishment of the executive branch of the United States government. The mandate of the postal service is to offer its basic services of receiving mail and delivering them at the most reasonable rates and fair prices.
The USPS became a fully independent federal government agency in 1971. It continued to receive some appropriation from congressional funds up until 1982. After that, it totally severed itself from being dependent on tax dollars. The most that the USPS receives from Congress is nominal funding to subsidize the expenses for its low-cost postage services, such as catering for the blind who sends mail, as well as for the absentee voting services.
With that said, the US Post Office doesn’t depend on any funding for most of its operations as it can operate and deliver mail to the public even without this nominal funding from the federal government.
In addition to that, the organizational structure of the US Post Office, as well as the nature of its operations and services, effectively shields it from the consequences and effects of any federal government shutdown and political disagreements.
USPS is considered to have a self-sustaining structure since the main source for the bulk of its funding comes from its own sale of stamps, costs of shipping, and other services. The USPS is able to raise on its own annual revenues and this is where the post office gets the money it uses for its operations.
A Federal shutdown can be a complex topic to discuss since it involves various reasons as to why it could happen, such as lack of government funding. But regardless of the reason, a shutdown can paralyze certain government functions and services, which can cause inconvenience.
One of the things that help separate and distinguish the US Postal Service from other federal agencies is the fact that it doesn’t derive its budget from the allocation granted and provided by the government. Over the years, the US Postal Service has been independent and self-sustaining and has solely relied on its revenues to fund its operations and expenses.
On the note that USPS is not federally funded, it can then be said that, unlike other federal agencies, the services of the US Postal Service won’t get affected but instead will remain operational during a federal shutdown that occurs.