How Will the Fiscal Crises Affect Travel in U.S.?
September is coming to a close, and the U.S. is facing two fiscal crises at the start of the next month: The government is set to officially run out of money on October 1, and the nation is set to hit the debt ceiling and go into default in mid-October. CNN senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta probably phrased it best when he called the situation "a dysfunction double whammy."
And while these are both significant for both inbound and outbound travel, things may not come to a complete halt: The U.S. has operated without a budget since 2009 and has avoided a government shutdown with last-minute deals, CNN notes.
How will the shutdown affect businesses? The New York Times explains that self-financing agencies, like the U.S. Postal Service, would continue to operate, as would activities with a “reasonable and articulable connection between the function to be performed and the safety of human life or the protection of property.” Significantly for travelers, that list includes air traffic control and border security, so airports will still be as busy as ever.
But there will be palpable slowdowns as well: CNN says that passport processing will likely stop as long as there is no one to handle the paperwork, making international travel difficult (if not outright impossible) for those who expected to get a new or renewed document after the shutdown. (The story notes that the last time the government threw "a hissy fit," 200,000 applications for passports went unprocessed. Tourism and airline revenues "reeled.")
And, of course, government-sponsored business trips would likely be canceled, or the travelers would have to risk never seeing reimbursement for their expenses. This, as we've noticed in the past, could have long-ranging consequences for conferences and events that depend upon government attendees, so October may only be the beginning of the issues.