Will the Shutdown Affect My Social Security Check?

Senior man is standing in the kitchen of his home with bills in one hand and a cup of tea in the other.
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Despite a government shutdown that will most likely become the longest in American history, you can expect to receive your Social Security checks as usual. The structure of the budget and the nature of federal spending is organized in such a way that the service can continue even during an extended shutdown like this one.

Discretionary vs. Mandatory Spending

The key distinction to understand is in how the federal government treats different types of spending. Social Security is part of a budget category called mandatory spending, which is essentially funded through an entirely different procedure than many other government programs.

The sort of programs that are directly affected by the shutdown fall under the umbrella of discretionary spending, which is money that’s laid out in each year’s annual appropriation acts. Just how much money gets spent on discretionary spending — which includes things like the Department of the Interior and the Department of Homeland Security — is renegotiated each year and depends on the two parties arriving at some sort of compromise for continued funding.

Social Security, however, is separated from this entire process as a type of mandatory spending. Entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid all have their spending levels set by statutory criteria. That basically means that Congress would have to change the existing laws defining those programs in order to change their funding levels. That might make it more difficult to change the programs, but it also means that their funding is laid out in any given year, whether or not Democrats and Republicans reach any sort of agreement about it.

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Shutdown Affecting 25% of Government

Even within the discretionary spending categories, much of the government is already funded and isn’t waiting on a compromise between the White House and Congress for its spending levels in 2019.

Although nine of the 15 federal departments are closed, the work done by those groups only represents about 25 percent of the services performed by the government. That’s because large portions of the government had already been funded prior to the shutdown.

Still, despite those government programs funded by mandatory spending and many of those paid for by discretionary funds remaining in service, the shutdown affects around 800,000 federal workers. That includes some 380,000 employees who have been furloughed and another 420,000 who are currently working without pay.

Click through to read more about how one federal employee is dealing with money woes during the shutdown.

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