Tom’s Declassified Government Shutdown Survival Guide

Government

I was wrong. The Senate did not come to a last-minute compromise, and the government officially shut down at midnight Friday.

But I was right about the effect. I’m working on a cost-plus contract funded with FY 2017 dollars, and will be reporting to work Monday morning. Of the four people on my team — one military, one government, and two contractors — only the civilian government employee will be taking a long weekend.

While the question of how long this shutdown will last is still open, there are two things certain: there’s not much you and I can do to end it, and it won’t last forever. So if you’re caught in the middle of the partisan sniping, there’s no sense getting too worked up about it. Here’s a few ways to weather the storm.

Check with your bank

If the shutdown lasts through February 1, the military folks still working will not get paid on time. Government employees, whether forced to work or not, will also suffer from delayed paychecks. So what are the options?

This is a time when it pays to bank with a company who does a lot of business with federal employees.

As they did in 2013, USAA Federal Savings Bank will provide interest-free loans, but to its active duty military customers only. If you are eligible, USAA will send you email with more details closer to pay day, should the shutdown last that long. While the loans are not available to government civilians or contractors, the bank says it has “other solutions, including special payment arrangements” for affected customers, who are encouraged to call the bank to discuss their options.

The Navy Federal Credit Union, which is headquartered in Vienna, Va. and maintains a branch inside the Pentagon, is also offering no-interest loans to active duty military (including Guard and Reserve on Federal active duty). But unlike USAA, it is also offering the loans, with a maximum amount of $6,000, to government civilian employees.

Stuck at home? Make it a party.

Nothing says “Washington, D.C.” quite like cocktails, and there are plenty of bars around town offering all-day happy hours for anyone with a government ID. Because Uncle Sam can force you to stay home, but he can’t make you do it sober.

Among the watering holes offering Shutdown Happy Hour deals are:

  • Hank’s Cocktail Bar in Petworth,
  • Cork Wine Bar and Market (closed Monday; sad!) just north of Logan Circle, Carmine’s NYC downtown
  • Union Pub on Capitol Hill
  • Justin’s Cafe near Nationals Park
  • Shaw’s Tavern (bottomless mimosas with lunch!) in Shaw, near Howard University
  • Capitol Lounge (Motto: “No politics. No Miller Lite.”) on Capitol Hill
  • Pork Barrel BBQ in Del Ray, Va. (free pulled pork sandwich for government employees each day of the shutdown)

Time to play tourist in your own town

The shutdown presents the perfect opportunity to play tourist in your own town if you live in the National Capital Region. Like contractors still on the job, the Smithsonian’s government-supported museums have funding available to stay open through Monday at least. So you can take advantage of a forced day off to see the miniature crime scenes still on exhibit at the Renwick Gallery, the Wright Flyer at the Air and Space Museum, the Hope Diamond at the Natural History Museum, and the famous “Inverted Jenny” stamp at the Postal Museum.

Unlike 2013, when the Obama administration made a grand show of barricading National Parks, including the open-air attractions on the Mall in D.C. like the Lincoln Memorial and World War II Memorial, there are no plans to do so this time. Although the bathrooms and gift shops will be closed, the D.C. city government has said it will collect trash from the National Parks in the city, so at least things will stay clean.

Tom McCuin is a strategic communication consultant and retired Army Reserve Civil Affairs and Public Affairs officer whose career includes serving with the Malaysian Battle Group in Bosnia, two tours in Afghanistan, and three years in the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs in the Pentagon. When he’s not devouring political news, he enjoys sailboat racing and umpiring Little League games (except the ones his son plays in) in Alexandria, Va. Follow him on Twitter at @tommccuin

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