Government shutdown seems to be a buzzword lately. After all, the United States experienced three such shutdowns in 2018 alone! If you’re wondering how a shutdown can affect you, we’ve found answers.
What is a government shutdown?
It’s basically what it sounds like. Due to a lack of approved funding, the parts of the federal government that rely on annual funding appropriations stop operating.
Why did the government shutdown?
Ultimately, it’s because Congress did not pass a budget in time. Without a budget, the government could not continue operating.
In December 2018, the shutdown was triggered by a stalemate between Congress and the President. President Trump stated he would only approve a budget bill that provided $5 billion for a Mexican border wall and Congress refused to provide that funding. Without an agreement, they couldn’t pass a budget bill. Thus, the government shut down.
What happens if the government shuts down?
Each federal agency has a plan that explains what services must continue and what must stop. Only “essential services” can continue. These essential services include things like border security, air traffic control and power grid maintenance.
Programs and agencies that do not rely on annual Congressional budgets are not affected by the closure. These include Social Security Benefit payments, Immigration and more.
How does the government shutdown affect me?
The government shutdown affects some people more than others. It really depends on the specific shutdown and your specific circumstances. Not every government shutdown has the same effects.
This is what we’ve learned about the 2019 Government Shutdown.
Who gets paid during the government shutdown?
Of course, Congress will continue to collect checks throughout the government shutdown. However, most other federal government workers will not. Approximately 420,000 federal employees are working without pay and another 380,000 have been furloughed.
Those who do work without pay during the shutdown will be paid for their work when the government reopens. These agencies include the ATF, CBP, Coast Guard, DEA, DHS, FBI, IRS, TSA and State Department. Furloughed employees work for many agencies, including HUD, the Forest Service, IRS, NASA, National Parks Service and Transportation Department.
Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps personnel will be paid in January. The Coast Guard is funded through the Department of Homeland Security, so Coast Guard members will not be paid until the government reopens.
Disability checks will be issued during the shutdown.
If you rely on disability benefits from Social Security or VA disability, there is good news. Congress already passed a budget for these things, so they are not dependent on the current negotiations. They will continue throughout the 2019 Government Shutdown.
Will SS checks be affected by the government shutdown? Fortunately, no. The government will issue Social Security payments on time.
Congress passed a budget for Social Security back in September. However, the Social Security office will not process disability claims or issue Social Security cards until the government reopens.
Do veterans get disability during the government shutdown? Yes!
Like Social Security payments, Veteran’s benefits will continue to be paid on time. All VA medical centers and clinics are still open and operational.
Food Stamps & USDA Operations
Approximately 40 million Americans rely on food stamps to feed their families. Food stamps will be paid in January. However, if the shutdown continues, February’s payments will be less than usual and there won’t be any payments made in March.
On January 4th, NBC News reported:
“If the $1.8 billion shortfall for February benefits were spread evenly across the 19 million households that receive SNAP benefits, each would see a cut of about $90 per month for their overall grocery budget, according to Dottie Rosenbaum, a senior fellow at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).
If the political standoff that began Dec. 22 continued into March, these households would receive no money to buy food.”
However, a few days later, the USDA announced that food stamps payouts for February would be complete. If the shutdown continues into March, though, there may be issues.
On January 8, Politico reported:
“The [USDA] can use an obscure provision in the last spending bill, a continuing resolution that expired on Dec. 21. The provision allows USDA to make payments that it is already obligated to make within 30 days of the expiration of the law, USDA officials said.
Due to that timing restriction, USDA is planning to dole out SNAP benefits for February earlier than usual — benefits will go out on Jan. 20 instead of at the beginning of February. Officials said they will look for other options to fund benefits for March, if needed, but they hope Congress will be able to restore government funding by that point.”
If the shutdown continues into March and April, Washington Post has this warning:
“Beginning in March, families could experience an average cut of at least $90, or close to 40 percent, assuming the agency spreads the $1.8 billion shortfall evenly across the 19 million households receiving SNAP benefits, according to an analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The USDA has not said what it would do in the event the shutdown lasts that long. When the SNAP contingency money runs out in April, the food assistance program will probably be closed altogether, anti-poverty advocates said.”
If you will need to complete a review in the next few months, I strongly encourage you to do that as soon as possible. If the office shuts down, you will not be able to submit or process that paperwork until the government reopens. Thus, any payments you may receive after that may be delayed.
A notice posted at the Jobs and Family Center in Warren, Ohio, states:
If you’re currently receiving food stamps, be sure to check out our list of 450+ freebies and deals you can get with EBT! Most of these programs will continue despite the shutdown.
The Child Nutrition programs, which include school lunches, will continue to function through February.
Other food programs, like WIC, will not receive any federal funding until the government reopens. These programs may continue at the local level if they have adequate state and local funding.
If you need food assistance during this time, please visit 211.org to find your local food banks and hot meal sites!
TANF Cash Benefits
Will cash aid be affected by the government shutdown? Unfortunately, yes.
Approximately 3.4 million Americans rely on TANF benefits. If you rely on cash aid, you need to know that federal funds are no longer available for TANF. The states are trying to fill the budget for those benefits but the federal government is no longer contributing to cash aid. It is unclear when those funds will run out.
If the shutdown persists past February 1st, the rural rent subsidies from the USDA will also be discontinued. The Washington Post warned that nearly 270,000 rural families may face eviction due to the loss of their subsidy payments. According to Bob Rapoza, executive secretary of the National Rural Housing Coalition, “These are the poorest rural people in the country. They’re farmworkers, they’re senior citizens, they’re disabled.”
Section 8 funding will continue through February. However, the 2.2 million households that rely on Section 8 rent assistance may be in danger of eviction if the shutdown persists into March. Funding will run out in March if the government doesn’t reopen.
Taxes & The IRS
Most Internal Revenue Service (IRS) operations have completely stopped. Generally, the IRS does not answer taxpayer questions or issue tax refunds during a government shutdown.
Law Enforcement & The Courts
Tens of thousands of law enforcement personnel are working without pay during the closure. This includes those who work for the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, the Secret Service, Border Patrol and Transportation Security Administration agents.
Federal district courts are open right now but could run out of funding very soon.
National Parks, Museums and Zoos
Most National Parks are closed. Some have remained open because states have offered funding. However, the National Park Service has cautioned that “access may change without notice” during a government shutdown.
The shutdown has also closed all 19 Smithsonian Museums, the National Gallery of Art and the National Zoo. The zoo animals are still being cared for by essential personnel.