What is a government shutdown? And who is affected?

The government shuts down when Congress is unable to pass appropriations bills that finance the operations of federal agencies and programs, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). These appropriations bills are designed to fund the government until the conclusion of each fiscal year, which ends on September 30. If a new appropriations bill isn't enacted by this deadline, Congress needs to pass a temporary measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), which sustains the government's funding at its current level. For instance, a CR passed this year would maintain funding at Fiscal Year 2023 levels. In the absence of an approved appropriations bill or a CR, the government faces a shutdown due to lack of funding. A shutdown affects all federal agencies funded by annual appropriations, causing non-essential employees to be furloughed and the suspension of some citizen services.

Will I continue to receive my Social Security and SSI checks?

Recipients will continue to receive their Social Security and SSI checks.The Social Security Administration (SSA) will provide limited services like issuing Social Security cards and holding appointments for benefit applications. However, SSA will stop services like benefit verifications and processing overpayments. Customer service wait times will dramatically increase.

Will I continue to receive SNAP benefits?

SNAP benefits would continue as normal until the appropriated resources run out. USDA has enough resources to administer SNAP for one month following a September 30 shutdown. Without an appropriations deal or Farm Bill in place, it will likely cause serious disruption to the SNAP program. 1,608,992 SNAP beneficiaries in North Carolina would lose access to benefits in a prolonged shutdown.

What will be the impact on WIC benefits?

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program will expire immediately, and the vast majority of beneficiaries will not be able to access their benefits. WIC will only continue at the state and local level as far as resources remain available. In North Carolina, 268,687 women, infants, and children are at risk of losing their WIC benefits during a shutdown.

What will be the impact on child care support programs such as Head Start?

According to the White House, 10,000 children across the country would immediately lose access to Head Start, as the Department of Health and Human Services wouldn’t be able to award Head Start Grants during a shutdown—with the effects only growing worse over time.

Will my mail still arrive?

Yes. Mail will continue to be delivered as the United States Postal Service is an independent agency and does not receive federal funding through government appropriations.

What about my student loans? Will I be able to receive and make payments?

Borrowers will still be required to make student loan payments during a shutdown. Delays are possible for those who need to consult with or seek help from the Department of Education due to staff furloughs.

Students applying for federal aid during a shutdown can expect similar delays. There could be delays in processing FAFSA applications, awarding Pell Grants, and pursuing public loan forgiveness, according to officials.

I am a Medicare or Medicaid recipient, will I continue to receive coverage?

If there is a government shutdown, Medicare and Medicaid services will largely continue as normal, but you may experience difficulties reaching these agencies as some employees will be furloughed. The Medicare annual open enrollment period begining October 15 should not be affected.

I’m a Federal retiree. Will I still receive my monthly annuity payment during a government shutdown?

Yes. According to the OPM, federal retirees under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) will continue to receive their scheduled annuity payments on the first business day of the month.

What is the impact on small businesses?

The Small Business Administration (SBA) would not accept, review, or approve any new business loans—including SBA’s primary loan to small businesses—cutting off an important source of funding for small businesses across the country. SBA provides $829,728,700 in funding to North Carolina small businesses every year.

How will travel be affected?

Air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Officers will have to work without pay—potentially leading to significant delays and longer wait times for travelers at airports across the country.

What is the impact on federal housing loans?

According the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), FHA will have limited staff during a shutdown, and the processing or closing of FHA-insured loans may be delayed. The longer the shutdown lasts, the more serious the impact will be. All FHA underwriting and processing requirements would remain in force during the government shutdown, and no loan may be endorsed that does not fulfill those requirements.

What is the impact on veterans' services?

In the case of a shutdown, there will be no impact on Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities, as they are expected to remain open and fully functional during a government shutdown, and almost all VHA employees will remain on the job. Employees performing medical and prosthetic research will be furloughed.

Benefits under the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) such as education benefits, insurance processing, compensation and pensions, loan guaranty programs and Veteran Readiness and Employment payment processing will continue.

The National Cemetery Administration’s (NCA) burial, scheduling of burials, first notice of death, and headstone processing functions will continue. Oversight and direct administration of the NCA program offices (Veterans Cemetery Grants Program, Engagement and Memorial Innovations, Cemetery Development and Improvement Service, Finance, Legislative and Regulatory Service, etc.) will cease.

What is the impact on U.S. military personnel?

Military personnel on active duty, including reserve component personnel on Federal active duty, will continue to report for duty and carry out assigned duties. All active-duty military personnel and many law enforcement officers would remain at work but receive no pay until appropriated funds are available. 33,914 active-duty and reserve personnel serving our nation's armed forces in North Carolina. 

Civilian personnel, including military technicians, who are not necessary to carry out or support excepted activities, are to be furloughed using lapse in appropriations (often called emergency shutdown) procedures and guidance provided by the Office of Personnel Management.

Will I still be able to visit the national parks and monuments?

National Parks will be forced to close as park service staffing would be greatly reduced. All monuments, historic houses, battlefields, and other units of the federal park system will be closed.

Will I still be able to get a new passport or renew my old one?

Yes, the U.S. Department of State will continue to offer passport services during the government shutdown, but there may be significant delays in processing time.

How will the shutdown affect FEMA natural disaster clean-up efforts?

A government shutdown will increase the risk of FEMA’s Disaster Relief fund becoming depleted and complicate new emergency response efforts if any catastrophic disasters occur. Funding for long-term recovery projects will also be halted, only worsening ongoing delays as FEMA awaits new appropriations.

What is the impact on medical research?

A government shutdown would stall important research on diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s, as the National Institutes of Health will be forced to delay new clinical trials. New patients, many of whom are desperately waiting for a chance at new treatment through a clinical trial, will be turned away.

What is the impact on food safety activities?

The Food and Drug Administration will be forced to delay food safety inspections for a wide variety of products all across the country.

Which federal employees keep working during a government shutdown?

Federal employees working in positions pertaining to national defense, law enforcement, and other activities directly involved with the protection of life and property will continue to work during a shutdown. In addition, employees not paid from appropriated funds, and those “expected” to administer shut-down operations, will continue to work. “Excepted work” includes emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property or the performance of certain other types of work, as defined in DOJ and OMB guidance.

Do furloughed federal employees get back pay?

The Government Employee Fair Treatment Act – passed after the 2018 shutdown – requires federal employees who are furloughed or required to work during a lapse in appropriations to be compensated for the period of the lapse. After a government shutdown ends, all employees must be paid immediately for the time lapsed.