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Why does the government shut down?

The government shuts down when Congress fails to pass legislation known as “appropriations” bills, which fund federal agencies and federal programs. Appropriations bills typically fund the government through the end of each fiscal year (September 30). If a new appropriations bill has not been signed into law by that expiration date, Congress must pass a short-term stopgap measure known as a “continuing resolution” (CR) to fund the government. Without a new appropriations bill or a CR, the government shuts down.  

What happens if I’m a federal worker during a shutdown?

Federal employees who work at an agency that has been shut down are either furloughed—that is, prohibited from reporting to work and are not paid—or must work without pay if they are considered essential to fulfilling ongoing government functions, like those required to maintain public safety. Historically, Congress has passed legislation to pay both categories of employees retroactively once the government reopens. Healthcare coverage continues during the shutdown.

Will I continue to receive my Social Security?

A shutdown will not impact Social Security benefit payments but be aware that new benefit verification and card issuance services have ceased, meaning new recipients may see delays in processing their claims.

Will Medicare or Medicaid be interrupted?

Medicare and Medicaid will continue for the foreseeable future, but you may experience difficulty reaching these agencies as some employees are furloughed. The Medicare open enrollment period running from October 15 through December 7 will be unaffected, although communications from the agency may be stalled or outdated.

Will Open Enrollment on still take place?

The federal insurance marketplace open enrollment will be unaffected. Open Enrollment will proceed as normal from November 1 through January 15.

Is USPS still delivering mail?

All services under the Postal Service will continue unimpacted throughout the government shutdown.

Will my student loans continue to be disbursed?

Pell Grants and Federal Direct Student Loans can continue to be obligated and make disbursement during a shutdown, but only as long as carryover and mandatory appropriations last. However, department staff needed to carry out and support these functions are significantly reduced. Free Applications for Student Aids (FAFSA), Pell Grant, and Federal Direct Student Loans, and servicing of federal student loans could continue for a “very limited time” under a shutdown. If the shutdown continues for an extended period of time, school districts, colleges, and universities may begin to experience funding shortages due to lapsed federal funding.

Do military personnel continue working?

The Department of Defense will continue defending our nation and all military personnel will continue their usual duty. However, our service members will not receive pay during the shutdown. It is unacceptable that the men and women who put their lives on the line for our nation are going unpaid because of House Republican chaos.

Can veterans still get treatment at the VA or access other services?

All functions within the Veterans Health Administration will continue and veterans will continue to receive compensation and pension claims.

With COVID cases rising, how are HHS or the CDC impacted by the shutdown?

HHS will continue to fight COVID-19 during a lapse in appropriation. Funding provided in FY20 and FY21 emergency supplemental will enable NIH to continue COVID-19 research and the FDA will continue to support drug and medical device reviews as well as emergency use authorizations and countermeasures to fight the pandemic. HHS will also continue to monitor disease outbreaks. We expect 40% of HHS employees to be furloughed. The CDC will continue its public health practices including monitoring disease outbreaks, but we expect a majority of its staff will be furloughed.

Should I cancel my upcoming travel?

You can and should continue to enjoy your travel plans! TSA officers and Air Traffic Controllers are considered essential and are reporting to work throughout the shutdown. However, both TSA and Air Traffic Control are currently working without pay so please have patience with any delays.

I’m coming to DC, will my tours still take place?

Unfortunately, tour guides and visitor centers of DC’s government buildings are considered non-essential and have been closed. This means that all tours of the U.S. Capitol, White House, and FBI Building have been canceled during the shutdown. 

What about international travel?

All services at international embassies and consulates will continue during a lapse of appropriations. If you are abroad and need help, you can contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Will my passport renewal still be processed?

Passport applications will continue to be processed. The Bureau of Consular Affairs/Passport Services is designated as an essential service provider and is funded through passport fees, so all of Passport Services, including agencies and the National Passport Information Center, will remain open during a lapse of appropriations.

Will immigration applications still be processed?

Visa and passport operations are fee-funded and thus are not normally impacted by a lapse in appropriations. Immigration court cases on the detained docket will proceed during a lapse in congressional appropriations while non-detained docket cases will be reset for a later date when funding resumes. The Department of Homeland Security estimates that Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement will retain the vast majority of their employees during a shutdown. 

Are National Parks closed?

National Parks will remain open but please exercise caution during any visits as most services will be halted. Visitor centers will be closed, entrance fees won’t be collected, educational programs will be canceled, and campsites won’t be staffed. In many instances, restrooms will be closed and services like trash collection and road maintenance will be suspended. There are also limited emergency/rescue services and safety updates will not be published. Please keep this in mind when planning any visits or hikes in our National Parks.

I have an issue with a government agency, can I still call them for help? Can you help me instead?

Due to the lapse in funding, many agencies have furloughed workers so their help desks may have little or no staffing. You are encouraged to contact any agency to learn if they are still able to assist you at this time. You can also contact my office to open a case for you. We can contact an agency on your behalf and provide you with updates if they are open or when they re-open at the conclusion of a shutdown.

I already have a case open with your office, should I do anything during the shutdown?

My office is continuing to submit inquiries to federal agencies including requesting updates on constituents’ behalf, submitting paperwork, and opening new cases. We will provide you with an update as soon as it is available.

I rely on food programs like SNAP and WIC, will I keep getting my payments?

SNAP payments will continue as normal but other nutrition programs, like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), will only continue at the state and local level.