As the clock ticks, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy faces the challenge of finding a compromise to avoid a costly shutdown and keep the federal government running smoothly.
This looming specter of a, set to begin on October 1 if a solution isn’t reached, raises concerns among Social Security recipients regarding the potential impact on their monthly benefit checks. For the 66 million Americans relying on Social Security, experts have shared both good and bad news.
Will Social Security checks be affected by a government shutdown?
Let’s start with the good news: A shutdown will not impact Social Security checks, according to Kathleen Romig, director of Social Security and disability policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank.
“Social Security and [Supplemental Security Income] benefits will be paid without interruption,” assured Romig in an interview with CBS MoneyWatch. She further explained, “Social Security Administration field offices and phone lines will remain open to take applications and assist beneficiaries.”
In fact, Romig stated, “Generally, applicants and beneficiaries can expect the same level of service as usual.”
The reason behind this assurance is that Social Security operates on permanent federal appropriations, rather than annual ones. Therefore, the checks will continue to be issued, ensuring a steady flow of benefits.
Prioritizing critical operations, the Social Security Administration confirmed in their contingency plan last month that they will maintain activities necessary for direct-service operations and the accurate and timely payment of benefits in the event of a shutdown.
Will Social Security services be affected by a government shutdown?
Now for the bad news: Yes, certain services may experience some impact during a shutdown, although benefit recipients will still receive their payments even if other government agencies cease operations. Approximately 15% of the Social Security Administration’s staff would be furloughed in the event of a shutdown, as noted by Romig.
“A few customer service activities, such as benefit verifications and replacement Medicare cards, may be suspended, but SSA will retain staff responsible for ensuring the payment of Social Security and SSI benefits,” explained Romig, underlining the legal guarantee of benefit provision.
The potential trouble spot lies in state disability determination services, responsible for making medical decisions concerning eligibility for Social Security disability payments, according to Romig. Unfortunately, these services may be affected due to the shutdown.
While the Social Security Administration “encourages states to continue their work during a shutdown,” Romig noted that the decision ultimately rests with state governments, some of which have closed in similar situations before. As a result, a government shutdown may exacerbate the existing backlog in disability decisions, leading to further delays.
How does this crisis differ from the earlier debt ceiling crisis?
Earlier this year, the United States faced a funding crisis as President Biden and Republican lawmakers disagreed on raising or suspending the nation’s debt limit.
Although that crisis was ultimately averted, the nation came close to the so-called “,” the fiscal limit when the U.S. would lack sufficient funds to meet its obligations unless the debt ceiling was raised or suspended by Congress. Crossing this point would have resulted in the Treasury Department defaulting on its obligations, an unprecedented occurrence.
In such a scenario, Social Security recipients would have been affected, facing potential delays in receiving their checks.
The current crisis, however, centers around appropriations bills that must be passed by Congress and signed by the president before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1. If the funding deadline passes without new authorization from Congress, the government may face a complete or partial shutdown, depending on the allocation of funds to individual agencies.
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