Once again, federal workers, the contractors who depend on government work and local jurisdictions across the D.C. region are bracing for the possibility of another government shutdown.
On Wednesday, Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin joined Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich to talk about the potential impacts in Montgomery County, home to thousands of federal workers and agencies like the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Institutes of Health.
Raskin said “I’ve got 58,000 active federal employees in the 8th district,” and many more “whose livelihoods are intertwined with the federal government as federal contractors and people who work in associated industries.”
Raskin said questions remain about how exactly a shutdown would affect different sectors of the federal workforce. He said his office is prepared to help answer constituent questions about the possible effects of a shutdown.
First, he responded to whether some federal benefits would still be paid.
“Yes! Those benefits, your Social Security check, your Medicaid, Medicare checks will still be coming” he said. But if the question is whether federal employees would be paid during a shutdown, “The answer is no, they will not.” But he said, “they will get paid when it’s all over.”
Raskin said federal workers can apply for unemployment in Maryland, but that “once they get paid back for the paychecks they missed, they would have to repay the state” for the unemployment benefits they collected during the shutdown.
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Elrich said the uncertainty for federal workers is leaving many unsettled, and that the severity of the impacts will vary for workers.
“There’s a wide differential in federal pay” Elrich said. “There are some people at pay levels that could probably absorb a temporary setback.”
But he added, “there are families — even at the federal employee level — who live paycheck to paycheck.”
Elrich said a number of programs that serve the county’s most vulnerable communities could see an immediate impact in case of a shutdown.
WIC, the supplemental federal program for Women, Infants and Children serves a large number of people in the county, said Elrich.
“In 2021, an average of more than 16,000 children and an nearly 13,000 women in Montgomery County participated in WIC, and based on census estimates, there are approximately 65,000 children under the age of six who are actually eligible to participate” he said.
Raskin added, that “in case of a prolonged shutdown, SNAP benefits would almost certainly be affected.” SNAP stands for the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program, which allows participants to use electronic benefits transfer cards to cover the cost of feeding a family.
Raskin, who serves Maryland’s 8th Congressional district in Montgomery County, said the economic impact of a federal shutdown expands far beyond the walls of federal offices to include local businesses who are dependent on the economic activity that the federal workforce generates.
When asked if he could calculate the potential hit to the economy, Raskin said he didn’t have exact figures but that “we know that the damage is in the tens if not the hundreds of millions to local businesses and restaurants” when shutdowns occur.
“A lot of them are still struggling to recover from where they were” before the COVID-19 pandemic “and this could be a potentially lethal blow” to those businesses still limping along, Raskin said.
Montgomery County has already produced a list of food resources in English and six other languages, including Spanish.
Raskin advised federal workers to follow the guidance of their agencies and mentioned a recent FAQ from the White House website.