What benefits may be lost with a government shutdown?

With the prospect of a government shutdown on the horizon, will people lose benefits like their Social Security check?

This is one of many questions that Americans are asking as the federal government is heading toward a shutdown. With Congress divided between a Democratic-controlled Senate and a Republican-led House, and Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s hard-right conservatives looking to use the shutdown as leverage for spending cuts, many are bracing for a stoppage that could last weeks.

Programs that rely on appropriated funds — that Congress needs to approve every year — are the ones most in jeopardy during a government shutdown.

“Social Security and Medicare do not fall in that category, they are not appropriated, because they have their own source of funding,” said Joseph Cordes, a professor of economics and public policy at the George Washington University in D.C.

However, if you have a question about your benefits during a shutdown, the government agencies that provide those services might not be available to answer your call.

“There might be more of a delay or they might not be able to get back to you at all,” said Cordes.

Cordes said SNAP food benefits are one example of a program that a government shutdown jeopardizes, but they will likely be paid ahead to states, like they were during the 2019 shutdown — which was the longest in U.S. history at 34 days.

That said, the benefits will likely only be covered for about 30 days after a shutdown, according to Cordes.

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How is safety affected during a shutdown?

Cordes said, generally, people who work in health safety and security will keep doing their jobs, but there are some exceptions in a shutdown.

“It is true that, for example, some food inspection may not happen on schedule,” Cordes said.

The Head Start program may also take a hit, as well as any agencies that get federal grant money to operate.

Most TSA and Border Patrol agents will likely remain on the job, but is it safe to fly under a government shutdown?

According to Cordes, yes: “Air traffic controllers will be working throughout the shutdown, the skies are safe.”

In D.C., where many politicians partially reside, local courts and services would also close, as well as the IRS and the Department of Defense.

“This is a city. We don’t have anything to do with these congressional matters. And we should be treated as a city that is not involved in congressional issues that are causing the shutdown,” Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton told WTOP last week.

Government funding is set to expire Sunday, Oct. 1 — the start of the federal budget year. A shutdown will effectively begin at 12:01 a.m. if Congress is not able to pass a funding plan that the president signs into law.

The Associated Press and WTOP’s Valerie Bonk contributed to this report.

Kyle Cooper

Weekend and fill-in anchor Kyle Cooper has been with WTOP since 1992. Over those 25 years, Kyle has worked as a street reporter, editor and anchor. Prior to WTOP, Kyle worked at several radio stations in Indiana and at the Indianapolis Star Newspaper.

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