With a continuing political deadlock in Washington, a government shutdown looks increasingly likely before Saturday night’s deadline.
While the Senate continues a bipartisan approach aimed at keeping the government operating, spending measures continue to face difficulties in passing the Republican-majority House of Representatives.
Some federal programs that people across the country rely on every day could also be affected, from reduced funding for food assistance to possible delays in customer service for beneficiaries of Medicare programs. and Social Security. The effects will be mitigated by the duration of the government shutdown and the various contingency plans of the affected agencies.
Nutrition Assistance Programs for at-risk women, infants, and children
A government shutdown could harm access for millions of low-income Americans to food and nutrition assistance programs, and its impact will depend on the duration of the shutdown and the contingency funding for each program.
Nearly seven million women and children who rely on the Special Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) will be at risk of losing aid almost immediately after the shutdown, according to the administration of President Joe Biden. This is because the federal contingency fund that supports WIC’s normal operations is likely to run out within days, leaving states to rely on their resources or surplus funds.
Affected families “should go to food banks,” said Dr. Nancy Nielsen, senior associate dean for health policy at the University of Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “These are people who need help. They are mothers. They are babies. “It’s a real problem.”
Programs for underprivileged children
As for the Head Start programs aimed at more than 10,000 underserved children, they will immediately lose federal resources, although they can avoid suspension of activities as long as the government shutdown does not last long.
Those 10 programs, located in Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts,, and South Carolina, serve only a fraction of the 820,000 minors enrolled in the program at any given time.
Social security checks
Regardless of what happens in Washington this weekend, Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries will continue to receive their payments. However the response time for people with difficulties may be delayed due to furloughs imposed on employees.
“If you have a question about Social Security, you may not be able to find an answer,” Nielsen said. “But the daily operation of sending checks will continue.”
Medicare and other health services
Medicare and Medicaid benefits will also continue, as both are mandatory programs funded separately from the annual appropriation. That means patients can still see their doctors and get their medical bills paid.
But similar to Social Security, there can be delays and interruptions in customer service due to employee furloughs.
Trips and other trips
The country’s air travel system is set to operate normally during the government shutdown. Air traffic controllers and TSA screeners are considered essenemployees;yees, however, they won’t be paid until the government shutdown ends, and screening lines could be longer if more screeners stay home.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Wednesday that air travel will remain safe during the government shutdown, but training for new air traffic controllers will be suspended and 1,000 trainers will be placed on vacation.
Suspension of student loans
If the spending measures are not approved by Saturday’s deadline, the government shutdown will begin the same day that student loans from the pandemic freeze after they began accruing interest again on Sept.
But with or without a government shutdown, creditors will have to pay. In most cases, loan servicers will be able to continue processing payments regularly, but there will be delays for those who need to consult or seek assistance from the Department of Education due to potential employees who agency furlough.
Students applying for federal aid during the government shutdown can expect similar delays due to similar circumstances.