Government Shutdown: What’s Behind Current Congressional Stalemate, and How Food Stamps, Social Security and More Could Suffer

The east side of the US Capitol in the early morning.
drnadig / Getty Images/iStockphoto

In what seems to be an annual tradition in the United States, the federal government is once again threatened with a shutdown amid delays in passing a short-term funding bill — less than a year after lawmakers had to scramble to avoid a similar shutdown.

Both Republicans and Democrats have pushed to pass the current bill, known as a continuing resolution, Business Insider reported. The CR allows Congress to fund the government for a short period of time until certain issues can be ironed out.

The main roadblock now comes from U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), who wants the bill to hinge on approval of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2022. That measure would speed up the process of initiating energy infrastructure projects in the U.S. — and mandate the construction of West Virginia’s Mountain Valley Pipeline, a project opposed by environmental groups.

Manchin’s bill has faced pushback from both sides of the political aisle, with some Democrats voicing concern about the environmental impact and some Republicans arguing that the bill already leans too far in favor of environmental regulations.

The rest of the short-term funding bill has largely gotten support from both sets of lawmakers. As Business Insider noted, the CR would keep federal agencies open at their current funding levels through mid-December.

The Senate was expected to vote on the package on Tuesday, Sept. 27, Forbes reported. Government funding expires on Friday. As of early Tuesday, it was still unclear whether Manchin has enough votes for his bill, meaning the CR could be in peril and Americans might face a temporary halt to certain federal government services. That last happened in 2019.

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Here’s how certain federal programs could be impacted, according to Forbes Advisor:

  • Food stamps: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, could face distribution problems during a government shutdown. This could lead to delays in getting SNAP benefits to low-income Americans who depend on the program to help buy food.
  • Social Security: Social Security applications due to be processed would likely be delayed during a government shutdown, although Americans currently receiving Social Security benefits should not be affected.
  • IRS: The tax agency is already under fire for backlogs, slow customer service and other problems. A government shutdown would temporarily halt key services and likely exacerbate the problem.
  • Low-income housing: Americans who depend on low-income housing programs to help pay rent could see a disruption in the approval of grants and vouchers, as well as a delay in the renewal of rental assistance contracts.
  • National parks and monuments: The National Park Service has halted most of its operations during past shutdowns, Forbes noted, citing information from the Congressional Research Service. You can expect the same in the event of another shutdown.

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