Government Shutdown Could Impact Social Security
Just days before the October 1 deadline, and lawmakers in Congress are struggling to reach a deal. A solution is still in question as to whether or not there will be a federal government shutdown on the horizon. Many of the 66 million Americans who depend on the government for Social Security and Disability income sources to live are inquiring the impact of what this means to them.
Each year Congress must pass spending bills before the start of a new fiscal year, which is October 1. Otherwise, the government runs out of money to keep functioning. So, as Congress fails to endorse new spending for federal agencies, which are commonly banded from spending money without congressional authorization, this is when a shutdown occurs. Occasionally there are exceptions, such as those activities needed to protect life and property. The impact on federal operations can vary widely because each agency makes its own decision about which employees are needed to stay on the job.
Now it’s up to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, along with his Republican caucus, to negotiate a way to keep the federal government running and sidestep a costly shutdown. Strained governmental staffing has already been a huge problem across the board, so this would only worsen matters. Congress is warning members to save money where they can before their funds are cut. Shut down preparation phone calls are currently being made, which most likely means there will not be an agreement reached.
The most recent shutdown, is also the longest: The government shut down for 34 full days from Dec. 21, 2018, to Jan. 25, 2019.
Will Government Shutdown Affect Social Security Benefits?
Social Security checks may actually not, in fact be affected. Kathleen Romig, director of Social Security and disability policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who says “Social Security and [Supplemental Security Income] benefits will be paid without interruption.”
The average monthly check for retirees is $1,827, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). Social Security is funded through permanent, rather than annual, federal appropriations, which means the checks will still go out.
Romig told CBS MoneyWatch the SSA “field offices and phone lines will be open to take applications and help beneficiaries.” She added, “Generally, applicants and beneficiaries should experience the same service as usual.”
Last month, the Social Security Administration announced it will continue with “activities critical to our direct-service operations and those needed to ensure accurate and timely payment of benefits” in case of a shutdown.
This means special education and Medicaid would go uninterrupted if a shutdown does occur. Nonetheless, getting assistance from the SSA and other government agencies would likely be more difficult.
What Will a Government Shutdown Impact?
Although aspects of Social Security may not be directly impacted by a shutdown, there are services that will be affected. Contingency plans are in place that outline how to operate during a shutdown. Perhaps the biggest issue would be the hundreds of thousands of employees that required to keep working without pay, getting furloughed and sent home, with their paychecks delayed until there is a resolution.
- Federal workers, including those with disabilities, will be furloughed leaving government agencies to operate in a desolate manner.
- Government programs, such as military training exercises, would be paused or cancelled.
- Federal guidance to states on the implementation of various programs as well as the processing of disability discrimination complaints would slow or be halted altogether.
- Although Veterans Affairs Health Administration facilities will remain open, there will be significant backlogs for Veterans trying to apply for benefits, passports and visas, and of course payments could significantly be stalled.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, issuance of benefits can be affected by a shutdown.
- Significant delays for travelers at the airport, halting training for roughly 2,600 air traffic controllers, and angry TSA agents having to work without pay.
- Rattle stock market and American’s 401(k)s
- National Parks could close due to lack of workers and trash pick up
“Government programs for people with disabilities are already underfunded for the level of need and a shutdown would only worsen this situation,” said David Goldfarb, director of policy at The Arc. “This is disappointing considering the major negotiations around the budget as part of the debt ceiling deal just a few months ago.”
Ultimately it all depends on how long the shutdown lasts to effectively measure the overall impacts it has on the economy. There is no way to predict how long a government shutdown could persist. For now American’s are holding their breath and crossing their fingers a decision is reached soon.
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