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What to Expect if the Federal Government Shuts Down

What to Expect From a Federal Government Shutdown

The Federal government's current fiscal year ends this Saturday, September 30. If Congress does not pass an authorization to spend money, most of the federal government will shut down. How will the homeless community be affected? Unfortunately, the situation is chaotic and unpredictable, but we can summarize what might happen and how people might prepare.

First, while it appears that a federal government shutdown is almost certain, no one really knows. It is possible that Congress will agree on a temporary authorization while it works out it's disagreements on spending for the entire year.

Second, if there is a shutdown, it may not last long enough to cause significant problems. In the past, shutdowns have lasted between four hours and thirty five days. Again, the situation is chaotic and unpredictable and impossible to predict.

If the US government does shut down, agencies will depend on unspent funds and money collected from fees. They will try to make their funds last by furloughing those considered "non-essential", about 1/2 of the federal workforce. After agency funds run out, "essential" workers will continue working but without pay. All federal employees will be paid lost wages when the shutdown ends.

Some of the largest expected effects:

- Social Security and Medicare checks will continue to be sent, but any customer service may require long wait times.

- WIC funds are only expected to last a few days. I've seen no announcement about whether or not the state of California will continue the program with state funds after that.

- SNAP funds are expected to last about one month.

- It's not clear how long federally funded school programs - like Head Start and some child care programs - will continue. The longer a shutdown lasts, the more such programs will be impacted.

- Federally funded housing programs, such as housing vouchers, are expected to continue for at least a few months.

There's little any of us can do stop a shutdown. We can apply pressure on Congress by calling our representatives and telling them not to shut down low-income assistance programs like WIC and SNAP. (Find your representatives here: .)We know that families experiencing homelessness have often left problematic living arrangements with family or friends, but if possible, this may be a good time to reach out to explore what kind of help you might be able to get from family during a shutdown.

If you have friends or family that are homeless, please reach out to them if you can to let them know how you can help during a shutdown.

The best scenario, of course, is for the shutdown not to happen at all ...

A couple of resources with more details about what to expect:

[submitted by Mike Cushing]

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