With days left until a possible federal government shutdown, you might be wondering what this has to do with you.
Every year Congress approves 12 appropriations bills to keep the government going before the fiscal year ends after Sept. 30. This year, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, wanted to negotiate, leaving the fate of federal services operations in limbo.
If Congress doesn’t act quickly to approve a new spending package or agree on a stopgap to delay the shutdown, the government will close up shop as of Sunday. But even a full shutdown doesn’t shut every door.
A government shutdown would play havoc with several federal government agencies and operations. That means nonessential services would be suspended, while other programs that receive mandatory funding would be spared. You don’t have to worry about things like air traffic control or power grid maintenance, for example.
Overall, the brunt of the disruption will fall on furloughed federal workers. The shutdown only ends when Congress can reach a funding agreement.
In the meantime, here’s how a government shutdown could impact the following:
Social Security payments
People receiving Social Security benefits will continue to get their payments.
However, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applicants who are still waiting for a decision might have to wait longer due to possible delays at the state agencies that handle the decision-making but that are funded by the Social Security Administration. But it will continue handling applications for benefits, issuing Social Security cards and tending to administrative requests such as direct deposit setups and address changes.
Food stamps/SNAP benefits
Delivery won’t be interrupted for benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — once known as “food stamps” — as well as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
Both programs have contingency funds, but if the shutdown lasts longer than 30 days, it could become difficult for the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to continue operations. WIC would shut down entirely a few days after the federal contingency fund runs out, according to the White House.
SNAP delivery could last longer, but for how long will be up to the USDA. During the 34-day partial shutdown in 2018-2019, the USDA worked with state agencies to keep the program running for the entire duration.
Medicaid and Medicare
Delivery of both Medicaid and Medicare benefits would continue, according to the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) contingency plan.
However, some administrative functions of the programs may be suspended like:
- Receiving replacement Medicare cards.
- Benefit verifications.
- Responses to third-party information or Freedom of Information Act requests.
- Overpayments processing.
- Prisoner activities.
If needed, the SSA would increase the number of employees exempt from furlough to keep operations going, as it did during the 2013 shutdown, according to the SSA.
Unemployment benefits will continue during a shutdown. The Department of Labor oversees the program, but unemployment compensation is administered through states. The federal government does pay administrative costs, so if the shutdown drags on, there could be a delay in processing applications.
Furloughed employees will still have access to unemployment benefits in certain states, but they may be required to return any funds they receive when the shutdown ends and they receive back pay. Those required to work without pay aren’t eligible for unemployment.
Student loans and college aid
Plan to pay your federal student loan bill in October, even if a shutdown happens. The repayment system is managed by servicing companies — not the government itself — so it should keep chugging along. Borrowers applying for loan forgiveness programs or consolidation could face delays because those requests go directly to the Education Department.
Federal financial aid for current students isn’t likely to be affected because students typically receive grant and loan money at the start of the semester.
A shutdown could impact borrowers who plan to attend school next year by further delaying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Currently, the Education Department aims to open the newly simplified 2024-25 FAFSA sometime in December, already a delay from the usual Oct. 1 release.
Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers, like Transportation Security Administration officers, are federal employees who are expected to continue to work without pay during a government shutdown. Some workers inevitably will not report to work without a paycheck, and even a few absences can bring the nation’s aviation system to a standstill.
During the 2019 government shutdown, the absence of 10 air traffic controllers led to a temporary grounding at New York’s LaGuardia airport, as well as delays at other major airports on the East Coast.
Air travelers will likely face more flight delays and cancellations if the shutdown drags on. It could also delay the FAA’s hiring and training of new air traffic controllers, meaning airline reliability may not improve significantly even after the shutdown is over.
Meghan Coyle, Eliza Haverstock and Tina Orem contributed to this article.
More From NerdWallet
- Likely Government Shutdown Now Only Days Away
- Medicare vs. Medicaid: What’s the Difference?
- How to Stay Afloat Financially in a Federal Shutdown
The article How Would a Government Shutdown Affect You? originally appeared on NerdWallet.