The United States’ recurring government shutdown drama is once again playing out in Washington, D.C., as lawmakers have until the end of the month to come up with a bill to fund the government. If no deal is struck by the Sept. 30, 2023, deadline, millions of baby boomers could see their Social Security benefits impacted.
A lot depends on how long the shutdown lasts. A short shutdown probably wouldn’t have much impact on Social Security, experts say. But a long shutdown could have serious consequences — and there is talk in some quarters that this shutdown could last a while.
A “full, lengthy” shutdown of the U.S. government is “likely” at the end of the month, Yahoo Finance reported, citing a note from analysts at PIMCO.
“If the government shuts down, there may not be a catalyst for it to reopen given the complicated internal dynamics of House Republicans,” Libby Cantrill, head of public policy at PIMCO, wrote.
In the event of a short shutdown, Social Security benefits will be paid as usual because Social Security and the U.S. military are not among the programs whose funding is set to expire on Sept. 30.
Typically, government shutdowns mean that all but “essential” federal agencies stop their work, USA Today reported. This means Social Security recipients will continue to get their checks even in the event of a shutdown.
But a lengthy shutdown would have consequences for boomers and other Social Security recipients, according to Max Richtman, president and CEO of the nonprofit National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.
“Depending on how long a shutdown might last, customer service for Social Security claimants and beneficiaries could be significantly disrupted,” Richtman wrote in an op-ed piece for The Hill earlier this month.
That’s a grim prospect for Social Security beneficiaries who already face customer service issues with the agency.
As previously reported by GOBankingRates, a group representing Social Security Administration employees issued a warning that the agency’s “staffing and funding crisis” could lead to “more Americans being denied the benefits they deserve.”
That alarm was raised during a June 2023 gathering on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., according to a June 26 press release from the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), a labor union that represents 750,000 federal and D.C. government workers.
“Due to over a decade of Congressional underfunding we are now an agency in crisis,” Jessica LaPointe, president of AFGE Council 220 representing SSA field office employees, said during the gathering. “The union that represents a majority of SSA workers has called you here today to sound the alarm that the Social Security Administration is in a state of emergency. The fabric of America’s social safety net is deteriorated, and you and your loved ones and our nation’s most vulnerable are at risk of falling through.”
How would that service be further impacted by a government shutdown?
According to Richtman, a shutdown would force SSA employees to continue working without pay until the shutdown ends. They would also be limited to performing only the most basic tasks.
Here are three other ways service would be impacted, Richtman wrote:
- Non-automated and non-exempted SSA operations ”would come to a screeching halt.”
- Current work backlogs would begin to grow again.
- Seniors hoping to submit new Social Security claims, replace Social Security cards, or report a change in status might experience delays.
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