Government Shutdown Looms: What You Need to Know

Government Shutdown Looms: What You Need to Know

Congress is back from its August recess and has just 11 days in session this month to pass 12 bills before the federal fiscal year begins on October 1. 2023 – a tight squeeze to say the least.

As such, the odds of another government shutdown are looming large as the clock ticks towards the September 30 deadline for Congress to pass the funding bills needed to keep the government open and running.

Why is this happening? What are the stakes? And what can you do to prepare for the worst-case scenario?

In this blog post, we'll take a look at a few key issues causing friction between Republicans and Democrats, the possibility of a continuing resolution (CR) as a stopgap measure, and the potential repercussions for ordinary Americans.

Key Stumbling Blocks:

The White House has sent a list of "anomalies" to Congress, demanding
increases in certain discretionary spending programs covering refugee
resettlement and welfare programs. However, this request for increased
discretionary spending has drawn resistance from Freedom Caucus Republicans in
the House.

Meanwhile, House Freedom Caucus members are demanding specific policy conditions related to border security. Their demands include the inclusion of the House-passed "Secure the Border Act of 2023" in any stopgap or short-term funding bill. The purpose of these demands is to address what they see as an unchecked flow of illegal immigration and strengthen border security measures.

The demands from both sides – to say they don't see eye to eye is an understatement – increase the likelihood of a government shutdown on October 1st, as time runs short to reconcile their differences. Bear in mind, the above examples barely scratch the surface of all the disagreements in play.

Blame Game Strategies:

As tensions rise, both sides are digging in their heels, forming messaging strategies, and blaming each other for a possible government shutdown. Senate Democrats are framing House Freedom Caucus demands for a CR as “hostage-taking,” while some House Republicans are urging their colleagues to pass all 12 appropriations bills and put the ball in the Senate Democrats’ court. The problem is that with so little time left with both chambers of Congress in legislative session before the deadline, it's unlikely that Congress will pass all 12 funding bills on time or agree on a comprehensive CR that satisfies both parties.

Plus, the fact that the two factions are already forming their respective messaging strategies around a potential shutdown indicates both sides view it as a very real possibility.

Understanding a Continuing Resolution:

In case an agreement cannot be reached by the deadline, a continuing resolution (CR) is a stopgap measure to provide temporary funding and avoid a complete government shutdown. It allows the government to continue operating at existing funding levels until a more comprehensive appropriations bill can be passed – but a continuing resolution also requires support from both sides.

Repercussions of a Shutdown:

So, what’s at stake if the government shuts down? A government shutdown has far-reaching consequences that can significantly impact ordinary Americans, especially those who are already cash-strapped, whose savings have evaporated, and who rely on Federal programs to make ends meet.

Here are just a few vital services and agencies that could be affected, and how that could negatively impact Americans:

Social Security and Medicare: Benefit verification and card issuance would cease, potentially affecting thousands of applicants and leaving them in limbo, as seen during previous shutdowns.

Environmental and Food Inspection: The EPA's halt in inspections for hazardous waste, drinking water, and chemical facilities, coupled with delayed FDA inspections, poses risks to public safety.

Air Travel: A lack of TSA agents and air traffic controllers can lead to longer lines, closed security checkpoints, and flight delays, causing inconvenience to travelers.

Health and Human Services: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) would be unable to admit new patients or process grant applications, and states may face financial burdens in fronting money for grant programs like the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which provides services like childcare assistance, job training, and transportation to work.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS): In previous shutdowns, loan approvals were delayed, tax refunds held up, and many furloughed IRS employees did not show up to work without pay.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Stores cannot renew EBT card licenses during a shutdown, potentially adding to food insecurity and financial hardship for many low-income families.

Furthermore, shutdowns delay critical economic reports on metrics related to inflation, jobs/unemployment, and retail sales, hampering the ability to gauge the health of the economy.

Of course, these are just a few examples of how a government shutdown can create ripple effects that disrupt people’s lives, hurt small businesses, reduce public trust, and damage the economy.

It's no wonder that Americans are increasingly anxious about the possibility of a government shutdown in 2023.

As always, it helps to prepare for the worst-case scenario by having extra cash, non-perishable food, medication, and water on hand, as well as updating your emergency plan and kit. These actions can help you weather the storm and stay resilient in times of uncertainty and disruption.

Bottom Line:

With the September 30 deadline fast approaching, the threat of a government shutdown remains a significant concern.

The issues at the heart of the impasse between the Republicans and Democrats, like border security, disagreements over spending levels, and Ukraine aid, are complex and contentious, but not impossible to resolve if both sides are willing to compromise and engage in constructive dialogue.

A continuing resolution might be a stopgap to buy time and avoid a total shutdown, but it might not satisfy either side's demands. The repercussions of another shutdown would be felt by many Americans, especially vulnerable populations who rely on federal services and benefits. That's why it's important to stay informed and be prepared for any outcome and the potential impacts of this high-stakes political drama.

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