As you already know, our Government has been shut down since midnight, October 1. Members of Congress failed to reach agreements on legislation for funding in the new fiscal year. Out of all the confusing shutdown news out of Washington, D.C., many of you who collect Social Security Benefits, Medicare, Unemployment Benefits, or Welfare, or may be involved in government funded health programs, etc are wondering how the shutdown will exactly affect you.
For sure, many programs are affected, but many will function as they normally do. Programs for the very poor, women and children, will feel the effects of the shutdown first and worst. According to the D.C. Decoder, here is what you can expect for specific government programs:
1. Social Security: According to Social Security’s website, all scheduled Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments will take place as usual, with no change in your payment dates. Field offices will be open but only partial services will be handled like processing new applications. Yet, if you’ve lost your Social Security, or Medicare, card and need replacements, proof-of-income letters, this service has been put on hold during shutdown.
2. Medicare/Medicaid: Like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid’s, funding does not depend on annual spending legislation from Congress. Medicare benefits are projected to function “largely uninterrupted in the short-term”, says a notice from Health and Human Services. If you’re not quite old enough to get Medicare and are low income receiving Medicaid assistance, you should experience little impact from the shutdown. Medicaid is funded quarterly on a joint state-federal level. Efforts will still be made to coordinate between Medicaid and the new Healthcare Marketplace insurance plans.
3. Unemployment Benefits: Regular payments are not expected to be impacted – at least they weren’t back in the last shutdown.
4. Welfare: These programs may be the hardest hit. Federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) has been stopped by the shutdown, yet, individual states still have some funding available to carry over into the new fiscal year. The amount available in each state varies, but should continue if the shutdown remains short.
5. Food Stamps/Nutritional Assistance Programs: SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise known as “food stamps”, will not be effected, at least not yet. It’s currently funded through the rest of October from the previous 2009 Recovery Act. WIC, the Women, Infants, Children, program will be hit harder putting 9 million women and babies at risk. No new Federal funds will be available until the shutdown ends, but individual states may have residual funds on hand that could continue operations on a week-to-week basis. If you have children, or grandchildren, that depend on WIC, you may need to help them out with food costs.
6. Veterans’ Benefits: Healthcare and pension benefits are expected to continue, yet some services may be slow to respond or put on hold. Most of the widely used benefits will continue normally at least for the time being. However, the longer the shutdown continues, the more Veterans services may be affected.
7. Special Healthcare Programs: If you’re involved in a cancer trial program run through various states’ medical schools/universities, you may experience a hold on your program or a complete discontinuation of it. You should be notified by the group handling your program, or you can contact them directly for more information on if/how the shutdown will impact your particular program. Ironically, these special health programs would have been helped with “Obamacare”, the funding of which is a major bone of contention and one of the reasons for the shutdown.