Will Lawmakers Act Quickly To Avoid Another Government Shutdown? - Forbes

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Updated: Nov 30, 2021, 12:16pm
Here we go again: The government is facing yet another shutdown.
Just two months ago, the government approved enough funding to keep things running through Dec. 3. Now it’s facing yet another crisis as lawmakers scramble to pass a stopgap funding bill by the end of Friday.
While analysts agree that it’s likely Congress will come to an agreement to keep its doors open, there’s a great deal at stake. Without sufficient funds, the federal government and nonessential services will close. Millions of federal workers won’t be able to work and won’t receive paychecks.
Here’s what might happen during a shutdown, should lawmakers miss the next funding deadline.
When a government shutdown occurs, nonessential federal services stop until new funding legislation is passed and signed into law. Each federal agency has its own shutdown plan, which indicates if its activities can continue during the shutdown—and if it has to furlough its employees.
According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), many programs are exempt from a government shutdown. However, many services would suffer negative consequences that would be passed on to ordinary Americans. Here are four of the biggest.
During a government shutdown, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would not be able to verify income and Social Security numbers. It would also have difficulty answering taxpayer questions and resolving compliance issues quickly.
During the most recent scramble to pass government funding, press secretary Jen Psaki said that even if a shutdown happened and IRS employees were furloughed, the IRS would be expected to continue processing tax refunds and child tax credits. It’s likely that would apply now should the government run out of funding.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, has been a critical lifeline for families struggling with the economic consequences of the pandemic.
Though a government shutdown wouldn’t cut funding, it could lead to food stamps not being sent out. According to the CRFB, past continuing resolutions have only authorized the benefits to be sent out for 30 days after a shutdown begins.
Should a shutdown go longer, families with limited means could be forced to slash their grocery budgets.
Those currently receiving Social Security benefits wouldn’t be affected by a government shutdown. But new applications or claims for federal benefits, such as Social Security or Veterans Affairs payments, would not be processed during a government shutdown, potentially leading to a delay in receiving first payments.
National parks have proven to be a very popular refuge during the pandemic—in 2021, Yellowstone set monthly visitation records.
However, a government shutdown could put the kibosh on many Americans’ holiday plans. During the government shutdown of 2013, more than 300 parks, national monuments and other sites were closed (although many remained open during the 2018-2019 shutdown, with no visitor services or maintenance).
If another shutdown occurs, it may affect whether national parks and monuments remain open, especially given that we’re still in a global pandemic.
The longest government shutdown in history, which lasted for 35 days, occurred between 2018 and 2019. It began when Trump demanded funding for a $5.7 billion wall between the U.S. and Mexico and refused to sign a government funding bill that didn’t include it.
An estimated 800,000 federal workers and 1.2 million contractors went without pay during that period, which happened over the holidays—with some workers so negatively impacted that they filed for unemployment benefits.
Now, Congress is planning on passing yet another temporary fix to keep the government open. It’s unclear how long the funding will last, but according to Politico it could be from mid- to late January. Both parties agree that they should do everything possible to avoid another shutdown.
Read More: Will Congress Lift The Debt Ceiling And Prevent A Government Shutdown?
On top of the political drama, the country is still grappling with a deadly, highly contagious virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said a pandemic would be a terrible time for a government shutdown.
“The worst time in the world we want to shut down the government is in the middle of a pandemic where we have 140,000 people a day getting infected and 2,000 people a day dying,” Fauci said during a September interview with The Washington Post. “That’s the time when you want the government working full blast to address this.”
In September, Psaki said a shutdown would be challenging for pandemic relief efforts such as updating treatment recommendations, but “the vast majority of work on Covid would be exempted.”
I’m a Consumer Finance Reporter for Forbes Advisor. I cover what’s going on in the news and how it affects your bottom line. I’ve been featured as a personal finance expert in outlets like CNBC, Yahoo! Finance, CBS News Radio and more. I’m currently based in Paris, France where I am pursuing my master’s degree in communication studies. Follow me on Twitter at @keywordkelly.

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