With federal shutdown looming, what does this mean for Chicago, Illinois?

The country is once again inching closer to a federal government shutdown — a scenario that would force thousands of federal employees in Illinois to be furloughed and could cause significant delays at the city’s airports.

While Medicare and Social Security checks will still be sent, the prolonged closure will affect other programs, including those related to disability claims. And federal agencies will halt all operations deemed non-essential.

According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there are 42,637 federal employees in Illinois as of March 2023. That number includes federal law enforcement and 22,600 active duty military members. Under the shutdown, all active-duty service members and some law enforcement officers will remain on the job but will not receive any pay until funds are appropriated.

Employees like Petty Officer 2nd Class Madison Williams of Great Lakes Naval Base in Lake County will not be receiving a pay check, forcing them to get creative to make ends meet without it.

“That’s how we pay our rent. That’s how we pay for groceries,” said Williams, 29. “A lot of people who don’t have savings…we have to dip into our credit cards.”

According to the office, “excepted” federal employees will not be furloughed, including those whose work involves “emergency functions involving the protection of human life or the protection of property.”

Environmental Protection Agency inspections of hazardous waste sites, drinking water and chemical facilities would cease. And according to the White House, about 10,000 children nationwide will immediately lose access to Head Start, an early development program administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The longest government shutdown lasted 34 days from late 2018 to early 2019 — led by a standoff between former President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans over a request for a $5.7 billion border wall. This time, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is battling far-right House members who want to drastically cut spending levels.

In the Senate, Democrats and Republicans are working on an appropriations plan to fund the government at higher levels with money for Ukraine and emergency disaster assistance.

But the clock is rapidly ticking towards the October 1 deadline. Government funding expires at 12:01 a.m. on October 1, the start of the federal budget year.

Loan assistance for unpaid workers:

In 2019, Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Treasurer’s office offered $100 million in state funds on low-interest or zero-interest loans to federal employees who had their paychecks garnished. Pritzker said Tuesday he is working with Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs to restore the program.

“If Republicans in Congress do not successfully do their job and defund the government by October 1, millions of people across the country will be impacted. Here in Illinois, we are doing everything in our power to help and will stand ready to support our federal workers,” Pritzker said in a statement to the Sun-Times. “We are home to more than 40,000 federal employees, and even if their pay is delayed, their bills, mortgage payments and debt will continue to mount.”


Air traffic controllers and TSA officers will also work without pay, causing massive delays and long wait times at airports. During the last shutdown, a large number of TSA agents walked off the job due to economic hardships as they did not receive pay for five weeks.

One pressure point in the 2019 government shutdown was the chaos it created at several major airports, where not enough TSA agents and air traffic controllers could navigate the country’s air traffic system.


Great Lakes Naval Base, about 30 miles north of Chicago, is the U.S. Navy’s only boot camp, where more than 18,600 people would be affected by the shutdown — including 10,000 recruits in basic training and sailors and 5,000 military personnel.

According to Great Lakes spokesman John Shepard, some of the 3,600 civilian employees employed at the base who do not perform excepted activities will be furloughed and will not be authorized to work.

Williams, who has worked at the Naval base for about a year, said he and his coworkers are researching organizations that may be able to assist, and preparing if the shutdown drags on.

“Almost everyone is trying to do their research and see which organizations are going to help them the most,” Williams said. He said he looked into the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, which can provide interest-free loans.

“I’m not doing any crazy shopping or anything like that, just making sure I have food to eat, and also paying attention to other organizations that maybe give food,” Williams said.

“I hope this gets over soon,” Williams said.

Veterans Benefits and Health Care:

At a press conference Friday, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Dennis McDonough said there will be no impact to veterans’ health care and benefits will still be provided. The only disruption will be the closure of regional offices, and some impact on services for veterans such as outreach and career counseling.

US Postal Service:

The U.S. Postal Service – an independent agency – and its employees will not be affected by the shutdown, meaning mail services will not be affected.

What would a shutdown mean for the federal courthouse?

U.S. District Court officials announced Tuesday that the federal court will continue to operate if an agreement is not reached by Monday. He also estimated that it could continue payment operations using various funds until October 13.

However, he said the court would be forced to suspend all civil lawsuits involving the federal government. And, if the shutdown continues beyond October 13, court employees may have to report to work without any expectation of pay until the shutdown ends.

US District Chief Judge Rebecca Palmier And Clerk Thomas Bruton has determined that all court employees are “excluded” from the holiday.

“Any disruption to the operation of the court is a matter of grave concern,” Palmier said in a statement. “We have a large number of criminal and civil jury trials scheduled to proceed this fall, and the lack of appropriations will seriously delay us in meeting our responsibilities to deliver justice in a timely manner.”

Trials scheduled to begin this autumn also include the October 10 trial of six alleged O-Block gang members accused of the murder of rapper FBG Duck, whose real name was Carlton Weekly. Former Chicago Ald. Edward M. Burke is also scheduled for trial on Nov. 6.

“This situation is clearly unacceptable,” Palmier said. “Our court employees are dedicated public servants, determined to keep the wheels of justice turning. But many of them live paycheck-to-paycheck; If we are unable to pay them, these staff members will face difficult financial decisions that will impact their families and the larger community.

Contributed by: John Seidel

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