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The federal government shutdown at midnight on Saturday, January 20, 2018, because the Senate rejected a temporary spending patch that would have kept the government open as the Congress, the Senate, and White House negotiated a budget or an appropriations bill to fund the government for the year.  While the political theater that created the government shutdown may be interesting, the impact of a government shutdown has consequences to elders, people with disabilities, their caregivers, and anyone saving for retirement.  It is estimated that the 2018 government shutdown could cost the US economy $6 billion a week.  Do you know the potential impact will be to you?

  1. Federal Employees:  Nearly one million federal employees deemed nonessential will be furloughed during the government shutdown. While essential services like law enforcement, security, air traffic control, and medical services will continue.  While furloughed, federal employees will not be paid.    Federal employees will continue to receive their health care benefits.  Any employee payment portion for healthcare owed by the employee during the shutdown will be deducted from their pay once the government reopens.  Federal employees will be unable to make deposits into their Thrift Savings plan.  However, furloughed employees may qualified to make financial hardship withdraws in certain circumstances.  In 2013, as part of the agreement by Congress to reopen government, furloughed employees received back pay, however that is not guaranteed.
  2. Federal Retirees:  Federal retirees will continue to receive their annuity payments during the shutdown.
  3. Military:  While the military will continue to serve, unlike the shutdown in 2013, they will be serving without pay during the shutdown, despite Senator Claire Maccskill’s motion to have them paid. At the end of the government shutdown, military personnel would be paid.
  4. Veterans:  All Veterans Administration (VA) hospitals and healthcare facilities will remain open. However, if you have a pending VA disability benefits application pending, there will be delays in processing it due to furloughs at the Veterans Administration.  During the 2013 government shutdown, the backlog of VA disability applications grew by approximately 200,000 over the 16 day shutdown.
  5. Social Security:  If you or an elderly or disabled loved one receives benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), you will continue to receive those benefits. However, other services may be limited because some employees will be furloughed.  During the 2013 government shutdown, SSA limited its services to the following and limited hours of their field offices:
    • Help you apply for benefits
    • Assist you in requesting an appeal
    • Change your address or direct deposit information
    • Accept reports of death
    • Verify or change your citizenship status
    • Replace a lost or missing Social Security payment
    • Issue a critical payment
    • Change a representative payee
    • Process a change in your living arrangement or income (SSI recipients only)
  6. Medicare & Medicaid:  Medicare and Medicaid payments to physicians and healthcare providers will continue to be made. However, other services could be slowed or delayed due to federal employees being furloughed.
  7. Federal Aid:  Federal aid programs such SNAP (formally known as food stamps) and Women Infants & Children should also continue during the shutdown.
  8. National Parks:  If you have planned your vacation to a National Parks you will have to cancel your plans. The communities surrounding the tourism dollars associated with visitors to National Parks will be impacted by the loss of tourists.
  9. Small Business Association:  Most of the Small Business Association (SBA) loan programs will be stopped during the shutdown, except those associated with disaster recovery and a few that are in payment status. Small businesses that rely on small business loans or are applying for loans are likely to face delays in processing requests, applications or distributions.  Many of the service providers for elders and people with disabilities rely on SBA loans so non-payment during a prolonged government shutdown could have a negative impact on care.
  10. Federal Taxes:  You still must pay your taxes and file your tax returns. Even though approximately 90% of the Internal Revenue Service employees furloughed, taxpayers still must timely pay taxes and file tax returns.  However, taxpayer questions will take much longer to answer because there will only be a bare bones staff to assist tax payers and process filings.
  11. Disease Control:  Disease surveillance and data exchange will stop because many of the employees at the Center for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health will be furloughed. Since this is Flu Season, this could have grave consequences.

We hope this government shutdown is over quickly.  These political plays have, sometimes, crushing consequences for our clients who lose income during a shutdown, but need to continue to pay for long term care or services for elderly or disabled loved ones.