The President has made it clear that he does not want a government shutdown, and the Administration is willing and ready to work day and night to find a solution that all sides can agree with. That said, given the realities of the calendar, prudent management requires we plan for an orderly shutdown should the negotiations not be completed by the end of the current continuing resolution.”

So read the first few lines of a memo released by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Tuesday.

A federal government shutdown is a genuine possibility. If Republican and Democratic lawmakers cannot come to terms on a 2011 appropriations bill by 12:01 a.m. April 9, as many as 800,000 federal employees will be furloughed nationally.

In Hawaii, the federal government has a significant presence, with almost 50,000 employees — about 8 percent of the state work force.

Only the most essential services will remain open. According to the Washington Post, some of the services that will continue to function include:

  • National security;
  • Social security payments;
  • Medical care of in-patients and emergency outpatient care;
  • Agencies and entities essential for public health;
  • Air traffic control;
  • Basic transportation safety;
  • Coast protection;
  • Protection for federal lands, buildings and waterways;
  • Prisons;
  • Police and criminal investigations

Aspects of government that would take a backseat during a shutdown include:

  • Processing of alcohol, tobacco and firearm applications;
  • National parks, museums and monuments;
  • Visa and passport applications;
  • Processing of IRS tax returns;
  • Bankruptcy cases may be suspended;
  • Health and welfare services for veterans could be scaled back;
  • Business loans could stall

Any planned trips to the Big Island‘s Volcanoes National Park may need to be postponed.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye told Reuters he was optimistic a deal to avoid a shutdown could come at some point Thursday. Inouye attended a Wednesday meeting at the White House with President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to discuss a compromise.

If the talks prove to be nothing more than talk, Hawaii’s federal employees can expect notification whether or not they’ll be furloughed before any possible shutdown. The last time the federal government shut down was for three week in 1995 and 1996.

As a general rule, all federal employees whose salaries are funded though annual appropriations will be included in the shutdown. Those agencies and entities with permanent appropriations, or appropriations not awarded on an annual basis, will continue to function.

Some employees in furloughed departments will receive an “excepted” status. The Office of Personnel Management memo describes an “excepted” employee as: 1) Employees who are performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property and; 2) Employees performing minimal activities as necessary to execute an orderly suspension of agency operations related to non-excepted activities.

The memo says legal counsels and senior managers will determine which employees are “excepted,” for each federal agency.

Workers shouldn’t get too excited if considered “excepted,” though. No federal employees will receive pay for time worked until an appropriations bill is passed by Congress and signed by the president. Lawmakers will also then determine if furloughed workers will be paid for time off.

For the generous hearts out there, volunteer work for the government during a shutdown is not acceptable. Any paid leave approved during the potential furlough period would have to be cancelled.

Health benefits for employees will continue to be to honored, regardless of “excepted” status.