LAST UPDATED: September 29, 2023
A federal government shutdown
With the impending federal government shut down, my office has created this page as a resource guide. Below, you’ll find information on what a government shutdown means, how it affects you, and frequently asked questions (FAQs) & additional resources for furloughed employees. PLEASE NOTE: This page is a living document; it is frequently updated so please check in for additional information.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 915-541-1400 or email me at Veronica.Escobar@mail.house.gov.
What is a government shutdown?
Every year, Congress must pass 12 appropriations bills to fund many of the federal government agencies and programs for the upcoming fiscal year. For FY2024, Republicans in the House have not been able to pass all of them.
How long will the government shutdown last?
Historically, the longest shutdown on record is the Trump administration shutdown that lasted 35 days. Although we do not know how long this shutdown will last, my Democratic colleagues and I will be working tirelessly to find a solution to this matter. Both of my El Paso and Washington, DC offices will remain open for those seeking help or answers.
How does the government prepare for a shutdown?
Each government agency has contingency plans for how to operate during a federal shutdown. You can find a list of the most updated plans provided by the Office of Management and Budget here. Many will have to stop or reduce the essential services they provide with this lapse in funding, as well as put employees on furlough until the agencies are funded at capacity again.
What’s the effect of a government shutdown on the economy as a whole?
According to the Congressional Budget Office, the 2018-2019 shutdown cost the U.S. economy $11 billion — largely the result of federal workers cutting spending to cope with the loss of their paychecks.
What has to happen to end a government shutdown once it starts?
Congress must pass and the President must sign appropriations bills to fund the departments and reopen agencies that have shut down.
What does this shutdown have to do with the summer debt ceiling deal?
During the summer, President Biden agreed to a deal with Speaker McCarthy and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. That deal codified cuts to federal spending that would be written into the appropriations bills in exchange for House Republicans raising the debt limit, as well as forgoing deeper cuts.
If Speaker McCarthy had kept his word and held House Republicans to that deal they negotiated, there would be no government shutdown. However, far-right members of the House Republicans demanded he abandon the deal and write the funding bills with deeper cuts to most government spending, including vital services our families rely on.
How does this government shutdown affect you?
Which federal facilities will be impacted by this government shutdown?
The following federal facilities may be affected in the event of a government shutdown:
- Military bases, arsenals, depots, and federal armories
- Veterans’ Affairs medical facilities
- Federal prisons and courthouses
- National laboratories
- National Park System facilities, National Forests, and other federally owned or managed lands
- Ports including seaports, airports, and intermodal terminals that may host federal customs processing facilities or law enforcement
- IRS facilities
- Law enforcement agencies like the FBI, ATF, DEA, or CBP
- General federal office buildings
I work in one of these facilities/agencies. Does this mean I won’t be working? Will I be paid?
- Federal employees who work for agencies or work on programs that are not funded by the annual appropriations process are exempt from a shutdown. These include agencies like the U.S. Postal Service and programs like Social Security and Medicare.
- Federal employees whose agency or programs are funded by annual appropriations that have not been provided for Fiscal Year 2024 will be designated by their agency as "essential" or "non-essential." Only essential employees—generally those who do work related to safety, property protection, health, emergency response, and other work as determined by their agencies—will be allowed to report for work once available funding has been exhausted.
- Those deemed non-essential when agency funding has been exhausted are legally required to stay home and are put on unpaid furlough.
- Regarding pay, all federal employees should immediately contact their supervisor/employing agency for further guidance.
Will federal programs be affected by a government shutdown? Which ones?
Below you’ll find a list of how major federal programs have been previously affected:
Please note: The years for these plans may vary, so the information may not be up to date. Please do not construe the below as official agency plans for Fiscal Year 2024.
Health Care Programs
- Medicare will continue during a lapse in appropriations.
- Other non-discretionary activities including Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control and Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation activities will also continue.
- CMS expects there will be sufficient funding for Medicaid to fund the first quarter of FY 2023, based on the advance appropriation provided in the FY 2022 appropriation.
- Payments to eligible states for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) will continue. Federal Exchange activities, such as eligibility verification, using Federal Exchange user fee carryover, will continue.
- Indian Health Service (IHS) facilities that provide patient care will remain open in the event of a lapse of appropriation.
- The DoD would continue to defend the nation and conduct ongoing military operations necessary for national security, including administrative, logistical, medical, and training activities in support of these operations.
- Activities necessary for recruiting (e.g. MEPS, basic training) would continue.
- Response to emergencies, hazardous material control, commissaries located overseas and in remote US locations where no other sources of food are reasonably available for military personnel, protection of DoD equipment in foreign countries, foreign humanitarian assistance, various counseling services, counterdrug activities, and mortuary affairs are examples of operations that would continue.
- All military personnel would continue their normal duty status but would not be paid until funds are appropriated. Reserve personnel performing Active Guard Reserve (AGR) duty would continue to report for duty.
- Permanent change of station movement is limited and Temporary Duty Travel (TDY) would be canceled, unless it is in support of certain operations, related to the safety of human life or protection of property, and foreign relations.
- Medical and dental care would still be available, but elective procedures would not be. Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) operations (e.g. operation of mess halls, physical training, and child care activities required for readiness) would also continue.
National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA)
- Functions related to the safety of human life and the protection of property would continue in three main program areas: maintenance and safeguarding of nuclear weapons; international non-proliferation activities; and servicing deployed naval reactors.
- During a shutdown, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps) will continue to provide payments to recipients until appropriated resources run out. If there is no appropriations deal or Farm Bill in place, it will likely cause serious disruption to the SNAP program.
- Most other domestic nutrition assistance programs, such as the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, WIC, and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, can continue to operate at the State and local level with any funding and commodity resources that remain available. Additional Federal funds and commodities will not be provided during the period of the lapse, meaning these programs may eventually run out of resources depending on the length of the shutdown.
Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs)
- Bonneville Power Administration is self-funding under a permanent, indefinite appropriation and would continue to operate normally.
- The Southeastern Power Administration, Southwestern Power Administration, and Western Area Power Administration would perform functions related to the safety of human life and the protection of property by engaging in controlling and directing power to utilities, transmission of power, and repair of the power transmission system.
Public Housing Assistance
- Some rental voucher assistance programs like Section 8 will continue unimpeded where an existing contract is in place, and previously obligated tenant assistance will be paid out. However, new funds will not be obligated and waivers for troubled assets in the program will not be processed. Public Housing Authorities are not required to cease issuing vouchers during a shutdown, and may continue to do so based on their financial ability.
Social Security Benefits
- A shutdown does not impact payments of Social Security benefits, including Disability Income or Retirement Income. Social Security benefits are paid out of a trust fund that is not subject to Congressional appropriation and is considered mandatory spending.
- Hearings on disability status will continue during a shutdown. Lack of supporting personnel may slow proceedings, including exhibition of evidence. Delays in proceedings may cause a delay in paying out benefits, even where a decision is made.
- 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. Department staff needed to carry out and support these functions would also be significantly reduced.
- The Department estimates 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.
- Superfund appropriations accounts are “no-year” so as long as there are funds available in such a “no-year” account, they may continue to be obligated for that program until it is no longer practicable to operate. After that, superfund response work where a failure to maintain operations would pose an imminent threat to human life, would continue.
- During a shutdown, the IRS stops audits and taxpayer assistance programs. They may also stop paying tax refunds, though they continued to do so during the 2019 shutdown.
- Work on issues related to the Inflation Reduction Act and the American Rescue Plan are considered activities exempt from a shutdown, where there is funding other than annual appropriations available.
- All functions within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) would continue, including PACT Act benefits.
- Benefits under the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) such as education benefits, insurance processing, compensation and pensions, loan guaranty programs and Veteran Readiness and Employment payment processing would continue.
- The National Cemetery Administration’s (NCA) burial, scheduling of burials, first notice of death, and headstone processing functions would continue. Oversight and direct administration of the NCA program offices (Veterans Cemetery Grants Program, Engagement and Memorial Innovations, Cemetery Development and Improvement Service, Finance, Legislative and Regulatory Service, etc.) would cease.
- Legal advice and court support for funded programs would continue.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Will I continue to receive my Social Security and SSI checks?
Recipients will continue to receive their Social Security and SSI checks. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will provide limited services like issuing Social Security cards and holding appointments for benefit applications. However, SSA will stop services like benefit verifications and processing overpayments. Customer service wait times will dramatically increase.
Will Medicare and Medicaid benefits be affected?
Current Medicare, Medicaid, and disability insurance beneficiaries will continue to receive their benefits assuming a shutdown lasts less than three months.
What happens to veterans' services?
All Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities and clinics will remain operational. The VA will continue to process veterans’ benefits. However, veterans will be affected by the shutdown of other services that they count on, including education and job training, support for veteran- owned businesses, and even assistance for homeless veterans.
Which federal employees keep working during a government shutdown?
When the government shuts down, federal agencies are required to classify their employees whose salaries have lapsed as either "excepted" or "not excepted." The employees classified as "excepted" work without pay during the shutdown. The employees classified as "not excepted" are put on unpaid furlough.
What is the impact on U.S. military personnel and federal law enforcement?
All active-duty and Guard and Reservists on active-duty orders are excepted and therefore are required to work without pay. On-base non-acute health care will cease, although off-base care provided through Tricare will not be affected. On-base child care will be open on a case-by-case basis. Federal law enforcement will also be required to work without pay for the duration of a shutdown.
Will military and federal retiree benefits be suspended?
Military and federal retirees will continue to receive their retirement benefits. Processing new applications or other requested changes will be delayed.
Will air travel be affected?
Air traffic controllers, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents will remain on the job without pay. If some do not report to work, as has happened in prior shutdowns, there will be significant delays and longer wait times across the country.
What does this mean for disaster relief efforts?
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) staff will still respond to emergencies, but all long-term projects will be delayed due to a lack of funding in the Disaster Relief Fund.
How will this affect environmental protection and cleanup?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will stop inspecting most hazardous waste sites, as well as drinking water and chemical facilities. Efforts to address dangerous contaminants like PFAS — which are linked to severe health effects, including cancer — will be delayed, and cleanup activities at Superfund sites will slow or cease.
What is the impact on food assistance?
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) will quickly run out of funding and be unable to provide food for children and parents in need. In the case of a prolonged shutdown, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits may also be affected.
What is the impact on food safety activities?
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food safety activities — such as routine inspections of facilities — will be delayed across the country.
What is the impact on housing?
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) will stop insuring some new mortgages and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will stop processing some new loans. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) will stop new loan and loan guarantee activity. The VA will continue to guarantee home loans. Funding for federal housing assistance programs, such as Housing Choice Vouchers, may be jeopardized in a prolonged shutdown.
How will this affect small businesses?
The Small Business Administration (SBA) will stop processing new business loans, such as through the 7(a) and 504 programs. However, SBA’s Disaster Loan Program will continue regular operations.
Will my mail still arrive?
Yes. The U.S. Postal Service is not affected by a shutdown.
What does this mean for medical research?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) will be forced to delay new clinical trials. New patients who are waiting for a chance at new treatment through a clinical trial will be turned away.
Will I still be able to visit National Parks and monuments?
Across the country, services that require National Park Service staff — including trash removal and operating campgrounds and concessions — may be stopped. Closures will be determined on a location-by-location basis; open-air parks and monuments in Washington, D.C. will likely remain accessible. Smithsonian museums may also be impacted by a lengthy shutdown.
How does this affect passports and help for Americans overseas?
Consular services, passport services, and visa services are expected to continue in the immediate aftermath of a government shutdown. In a prolonged shutdown, passport and visa issuance could be slowed. Access to passport agencies located in some government buildings may be limited.
What is the impact on state and local services?
The federal government shutdown will not immediately affect any state or local services. However, with federal funding cut off, some state or local governments may have to change their operations. Check with state and local agencies for specific questions.
Where can I find other resources to lower costs?
You can visit my Lower Costs page.
Resources for furloughed employees
211 is a clearinghouse of information about available resources for federal employees impacted by the shutdown. If additional resources not listed below are needed, call 2-1-1 for more information. You can also reach out to our office at 915-541-1400.
El Pasoans Fighting Hunger Food Bank services El Paso, Hudspeth, and Culbertson counties. For more information on how they can help you, visit their website here or call 915-298-0353.
DEFERRING PAYMENTS OR PAYMENT PLANS
Utilities to include El Paso Water (915-594-5500), El Paso Electric (915-543-5970) and Texas Gas Service (800-700-2443) will work with customers to create payment arrangements.
Cell phone carriers, depending on the carrier, will work with customers to create flexible payment plans and to waive late fees. Carriers include AT&T (800-331-0500), Sprint (888-211-4727), T-Mobile (877-746-0909) and Verizon (866-266-1445)
Ysleta Independent School District is prioritizing furloughed workers to serve as substitute teachers. Candidates must have a minimum of 60 credit hours from a college or university, command of the English language, the ability to instruct and strong organizational, communication and interpersonal skills. Complete an online employment application at www.yisd.net or call 915-434-0407 for more info.
Anthony Independent School District is also offering positions as substitute teachers. For more information, call 915-886-6501 or visit anthonyisd.net.
Socorro Independent School District is also offering positions as substitute teachers. For more information, call 915-937-0298 or visit sisd.net.
Canutillo Independent School District is also offering positions as substitute teachers. For more information, call 915-877-7423 or visit canutillo-isd.org.
MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES AND STRESS RELIEF
Emergence Health Network (www.emergencehealthnetwork.org) has a crisis hotline (915-779-1800 manned by qualified mental health professional and backed up by on-call professionals who are available 24/7. You can also visit one of their mental health clinics.
For YMCA members who are government employees and are furloughed as part of a shutdown, the YMCA of El Paso will defer any membership dues and if you have children in one of the YMCA’s afterschool programs, they will defer payments for this care. The YMCA will also offer their intermission day camp that takes place the first two weeks of October at no charge.
For more information, contact your nearest YMCA:
Bowling YMCA (Northeast) 5509 Will Ruth. El Paso, TX 79924. 915-755-9622
Loya YMCA (Eastside) 2044 Trawled Ave. El Paso, TX 79935. 915-590-9622
Westside YMCA (Westside) 7145 N Mesa. El Paso, TX 79912. 915-584-9622