An extract on what happened the last time can be found below:
Effects on the Public
The long shutdown that began in December 1995 affected many members of the
public. A few examples, taken from congressional hearings, press and agency accounts,
! Health. New patients were not accepted into clinical research at the
National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center; the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention ceased disease surveillance (information
about the spread of diseases, such as AIDS and flu, were unavailable);
hotline calls to NIH concerning diseases were not answered; and toxic
waste clean-up work at 609 sites stopped, resulting in 2,400 “Superfund”
workers being sent home.
! Law Enforcement/Public Safety. Delays occurred in the processing of
alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and explosives applications by the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; work on more than 3,500 bankruptcy
cases was suspended; cancellation of the recruitment and testing of
federal law-enforcement officials occurred, including the hiring of 400
border patrol agents; and delinquent child-support cases were suspended.
! Parks/Museums/Monuments. Closure of 368 National Park Service
sites (loss of 7 million visitors) occurred, with local communities near
national parks losing an estimated $14.2 million per day in tourism
revenues; and closure of national museums and monuments (estimated
loss of 2 million visitors) occurred.
! Visas/Passports. 20,000-30,000 applications by foreigners for visas
went unprocessed each day; 200,000 U.S. applications for passports went
unprocessed; and U.S. tourist industries and airlines sustained millions
of dollars in losses.
! American Indian/Other Native Americans. All 13,500 Department of
Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) employees were furloughed;
general assistance payments for basic needs to 53,000 BIA benefit
recipients were delayed; and estimated 25,000 American Indians did not
receive timely payment of oil and gas royalties.
! American Veterans. Major curtailment in services, ranging from health
and welfare to finance and travel was experienced.
! Federal Contractors. Of $18 billion in Washington area contracts, $3.7
billion (over 20%) were managed by agencies affected by the funding
lapse;10 the National Institute of Standards, was unable to issue a new
standard for lights and lamps, scheduled to be effective January 1, 1996;
and employees of federal contractors were furloughed without pay.
Worth noting that there have been 17 shutdowns since 1977. The last one, in 1995-1996 (for six days in November 1995 and three weeks from December 1995 to January 1996) cost $1.4bn.