Just the Facts

Five Facts on How The Government Shutdown Could Affect You

By No Labels
January 7, 2019 | Blog

Funding for a the U.S.-Mexico border wall is at the heart of a budget dispute between President Trump and Congress that has shut down the government and forced more than 800,000 federal employees in all 50 states to go without pay. But millions of other Americans are paying a heavy price too, including some of our most vulnerable citizens. Here are five facts on how the government shutdown could directly affect you.

Staffing shortages at the IRS could cause confusion among taxpayers

Due to the government shutdown only about 12% of staff at the IRS are expected to continue their work, operating as an unpaid skeleton crew to ensure that the service carries out its most essential functions. The IRS was able to alleviate significant pressure on lawmakers when it announced on Monday that tax refunds would still be processed, regardless of whether the service is funded. However, with the significant staff shortages and a new tax code following the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2018, there is still concern that the IRS will not be able to provide the necessary assistance to accountants and individuals looking to navigate their way through a new tax code.

More than 39 million people could temporarily lose access to food stamps

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which oversees the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, is just one of numerous government agencies facing a lapse in funding due to the government shutdown. While senior officials in the White House have indicated that they believe the USDA has enough money to continue funding SNAP through January and into February, the USDA itself has yet to comment, leaving millions of America’s most vulnerable citizens in limbo.

Rental assistance payments could be temporarily suspended

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is another agency that has gone without funding for several weeks. This has caused the department to stop performing mandatory health and safety inspections and could force the department to suspend all rental assistance payments, which could harm millions of tenants reliant on this aid. While the department has enough money to afford these payments for the next several weeks, it may not have enough employees on hand to respond to unforeseen circumstances, like technical glitches in the payment systems.

Airports around the country could see longer delays and are at greater risk of security lapses

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which is in charge of keeping our country’s transportation hubs, such as airports and train stations secure, has been without funding since late December.  This has caused the agency’s more than 40,000 employees to work without pay for several weeks, which has in turn led to reports of hundreds of employees choosing to call in sick instead of working without compensation.  According to a TSA spokesperson, “Wait times may be affected depending on the number of call outs.” In addition, certain checkpoints could be understaffed, while others could be staffed by agents working longer hours to make up for the dip in available agents.

The federal courts system is projected to run out of cash by January 11

If the government is not able to end the shutdown by Friday, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has stated that nonessential workers will likely be asked to stay at home while skeleton crews work without pay to handle matters deemed essential. Interestingly, much of the decision-making will then be made on a court-by-court or even judge-by-judge basis. David Sellers, a spokesman for U.S. Courts stated, “In the past, some courts have suspended civil cases, some have conducted business as usual.” However, no matter how the individual cases are handled, it is certain that if funding is not secured, the federal courts system will face serious backlogs that could take months if not years to handle.

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