How The Government Shutdown Is Affecting Seniors

How the Government Shutdown Is Affecting Seniors

Updated on Jan 14 2019

The partial government shutdown that started during the holidays has now become the longest in the nation’s history. As hundreds of thousands of federal employees stop receiving paychecks, senior Americans are beginning to see the impact of the shutdown.

Now the “longest shutdown in U.S. history,” the fourth week of the government shutdown is affecting Americans differently. With no pay and limited government resources, many seniors are being impacted by the government shutdown, with some seeing even seeing their housing benefits threatened.

Learn more about the shutdown, how it is affecting seniors in America, and the importance of being financially prepared for unforeseen circumstances.

Partial Government Shutdown Closes One Quarter of Government Agencies

Unlike other the government shutdowns in October 2013 and January 2018, this most recent shutdown is a partial government shutdown, meaning that about one quarter of government agencies are affected, not the entire government. Congress failed to meet a December 21 deadline for funding the State Department, the Justice Department, the Transportation Department, the Agriculture Department, and the Department of the Interior.

Congress still needs to pass seven spending bills, the most controversial one being the Homeland Security appropriations bill, which would provide funding for border security and a potential wall.

Impact of Government Shutdown on Seniors

Seniors who rely on government services for food, shelter, and medical care may feel the impact of the government shutdown in a very personal way.

Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are “mandatory spending”, meaning that the government is committed to paying them despite the shutdown. These programs are not affected by the annual appropriations process so they should continue uninterrupted. However, any new applicants for these programs may experience a longer than normal wait because of the reduction in workforce.

Seniors who rely on food stamps will still be able to obtain those them, for now. However, if the shutdown continues, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has only limited funding to maintain them without new appropriations. Currently, the USDA says it will be able to continue providing food stamps through February.

One of the biggest impacts of the shutdown on seniors is the lack of funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD can not renew up to 1,150 rental assistance contracts that expired in December or will expire in January because of the funding shortfall. If the government shutdown continues into February and March, the number of residents who could experience hardship will increase.

Preparing for the Unexpected

According to Bankrate’s latest financial security survey, only 39 percent of Americans said they would be able to cover a $1,000 setback using their savings but nearly 34 percent of Americans experienced a major unexpected expense in the past year.

With the partial government shutdown, 800,000 federal workers are not receiving a paycheck and many services for seniors have been stopped or delayed. It is crucial that individuals have an emergency fund with monies set aside to cover unexpected expenses. Emergency funds are important because they can help you through hard times, including the unexpected loss of a job and subsequent income. Experts recommend having an emergency fund that covers six to ten months’ worth of living expenses.

“The goal should be to have enough emergency savings to cover six months’ expenses — and anything less than that should cause discomfort,” Greg McBride, CFA and Bankrate chief financial analyst

Do you have an emergency fund available for unexpected expenses? If not, contact a fiduciary financial advisor today. A fiduciary financial advisor can help you get control of your finances, and create a plan to help you have financial security in difficult times.

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