Updated Sep 29, 2023 - Politics & Policy

How a government shutdown could affect you

Illustration of the Capitol dome opening up to reveal an emergency button with a hand hovering above about to press it.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

With Congress' Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government and avoid a shutdown fast approaching, federal services and jobs could be thrown for a loop.

The big picture: If a government shutdown takes places, federal functions deemed non-essential could be suspended, affecting health programs, Social Security and Medicare, SNAP benefits, Food and Drug Administration inspections and small business loans.

  • Paychecks will be paused for all federal employees, including both those who stop working and those with roles deemed essential.

Social Security and Medicare

  • Recipients will continue to get Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) checks.
  • The Social Security Administration said in a shutdown plan overview last month that it will continue "activities critical to our direct-service operations and those needed to ensure accurate and timely payment of benefits."
  • Services that will be paused include benefit verifications and earnings record corrections and updates, per the overview.
  • Medicare services will also largely continue during a potential government shutdown but replacement cards won't be issued.

Veteran benefits

  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough said last week that veteran health care would not be impacted and benefits will continue to be processes and delivered, including compensation, pension, education, and housing benefits.
  • But some other resources will be restricted he said, including outreach, career counseling, transition assistance and cemetery grounds maintenance. Public-facing regional offices will close.

Student loan payments

  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday that key activities at Federal Student Aid are expected to continue for a couple of weeks if there is a shutdown.
  • But if it's a prolonged shutdown that lasts for more than a few weeks, it "could substantially disrupt the return to repayment effort and long-term servicing support for borrowers," she said.

Food benefits

  • Recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will continue to get benefits through October.
  • "If the shutdown were to extend longer than that, there would be some serious consequences to SNAP," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said during a White House briefing Monday.
  • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or which is for nearly 7 million mothers and children, would see an immediate reduction in benefits, according to Vilsack.

Mail

  • The U.S. Postal Service is not effected by a shutdown as the agency does not rely on taxpayer funding.
  • Mail will continue to be delivered as normal.

Air travel

  • Commercial flights will continue as normal.

Yes, but: Air traffic controllers and TSA officers will have to work without pay, which may cause low staffing issues at airports.

  • During the partial government shutdown in late 2018 into early 2019, many TSA agents did not show up to work.

Passports

  • Passport issuance, along with visa and consular services, are expected to continue in the immediate aftermath of a shutdown, per Rep. Debbie Dingell.
  • If the shutdown is prolonged, passport and visa issuance could be slowed and access to passport agencies located in government buildings could become limited, according to Dingell's office.

National Parks and Smithsonian Museums

  • Services at national parks– such as restrooms, visitors' centers, campgrounds, information kiosks, trash removal and interpretative program – are all closed during a shutdown.
  • The vast majority of National Park Service employees are furloughed.
  • The Smithsonian museums in D.C. also close during a shutdown.

Flood insurance

  • A shutdown would threaten federal funding for the National Flood Insurance Program, according to the Insurance Information Institute, an industry research group.
  • Funding for the program would expire on Oct. 1. This could derail thousands of real estate transactions that require flood coverage.
  • "Claims on existing policies would still get paid if NFIP isn't reauthorized," the organization said. "But the program would be unable to issue new policies and would face other funding constraints."

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Axios' April Rubin contributed.

Editor's note: This story was updated with information on the federal flood insurance program.

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