President Joe Biden signed legislation on Nov. 17 that will keep the federal government running until early next year. Under the bipartisan measure, about 20 percent of agencies will be funded through Jan. 19, 2024, while the remaining 80 percent will maintain their services until Feb. 9.
Biden signed the measure into law before the current Nov. 18 funding deadline. That gives Congress and the White House time to negotiate how to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2024. The legislation will finance the government at current spending levels.
Even in the event of a government shutdown, millions of Americans would continue to receive their Social Security, Medicare and veterans benefits. People would also continue to be able to get letters and their prescription drugs uninterrupted through the U.S. mail, among other essential services.
While most federal agencies rely on congressional appropriations to pay for their operations, Social Security and Medicare are considered mandatory programs and are not subject to annual appropriations. Nevertheless, while key functions would continue in the event of a shutdown, some services might be curtailed depending on how long a shutdown lasts.
Absent an agreement to fund the government beyond next year’s January and February deadlines, many federal workers would face the prospect of being furloughed without pay and their job duties going unfilled. Federal workers deemed essential, including many active military members, would continue to work without receiving a paycheck. By law, back pay owed to federal workers would be paid out after the shutdown ends.
The last time large portions of the federal government shut down was from Dec. 22, 2018, to Jan. 25, 2019. That 35-day shutdown was the longest in history.
Here’s a look at how a shutdown could affect these vital services:
Social Security benefits would be paid as usual. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is not subject to the annual appropriations process. It has a permanent funding source.
SSA’s shutdown contingency plan says applications for Social Security retirement benefits, survivor benefits, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) would all continue to be accepted and processed. If you have a hearing scheduled, it would happen. The agency would also continue to issue new Social Security cards and replacement cards. Field offices and phone lines would remain open.
A few customer services that are not considered essential would be suspended, including benefit verifications.