Contingencies in place should government shut down

Published 11:25 am Saturday, April 9, 2011

by Randy Forbes

I, along with a number of my colleagues, want to keep the government open and cut spending.

While we don’t know if Senate Democrats or the president will shut down the government, it would be irresponsible not to prepare for that possibility.

The House Republican Conference has provided information related to the potential effects of a government shutdown, including how the shutdown would affect our veterans, federal services, Medicare and Social Security, law enforcement and other federal operations.

• According to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, disabled veterans in receipt of disability compensation or pension checks should continue to receive those payments.

• According to the House Committee on Armed Services, military personnel would serve without pay until funds are appropriated by Congress and signed into law by the president. Military personnel on active duty would continue to report for duty.

• Because Social Security benefits are not subject to appropriation, the Social Security Administration has told the House Committee on Ways and Means that the checks would go out.

• The House Committee on Ways and Means asked the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services if they have any information as to what would happen if there were a government shutdown and CMS would not give any guidance. According to Ways and Means, CMS had not thought about it. According to Ways and Means, the House Committee on Financial Services also made a similar request to CMS. CMS did note that Medicare doesn’t pay in real time. There’s a minimum two-week lag time, so if the government is shut down for more than two weeks there could be an issue.

• According to the Committee on Ways and Means, disability benefits would continue to be paid. New benefit applications for retirement, disability and survivor’s benefits may be delayed depending on the staffing plan Social Security develops, as the number of staff on hand would determine the amount of work processed.

• According to the House Committee on Ways and Means, unemployment benefits weren’t affected during the 1996 shutdown, and as mandatory spending, they would not expect them to be. States were just transferred their quarterly amounts to pay state benefits through at least the next two months.

• According to the House Committee on Agriculture, without knowing USDA’s contingency plans, it’s hard to definitively say what would happen to food stamps. In short, food stamps would not immediately be affected at all.

RANDY FORBES represents Western Tidewater in the U.S. House of Representatives. For contact information, see