Here's what will happen to Social Security payments and SNAP if the government shuts down

  • The government will shut down after September 30 if Congress can't reach a deal on funding.

  • A shutdown could risk Social Security payments and SNAP benefits.

  • That's because there will not be enough federal workers to administer the programs.

There's a government shutdown looming, and it could mean even more economic woes for Americans.

Come September 30, the government will run out of funding — unless Congress steps in with a stopgap measure to keep everything funded. But with House Republicans in disarray, that seems unlikely to happen before the weekend deadline.

While the impact of a federal government shutdown depends on its duration, Americans could quickly start to experience the consequences of a lapse of funding. On the first day of the shutdown, thousands of federal employees would be furloughed — and that means staff would be severely limited when it comes to administering a range of programs millions of Americans rely on.

Social Security payments will continue to go out should the government shut down — but don't expect to get help if you need a new card, or are dealing with overpayment issues. The agency's contingency plan says that 8,500 employees will be furloughed in the case of a shutdown, with 53,000 exempted from shutdown furloughs.

Nancy Altman, the president of advocacy group Social Security Works, told CNN that a shutdown could potentially lead to further slowdowns for various customer service, as workers leave rather than forego pay.

However, a shutdown could prove to be more difficult for Americans receiving food assistance. The Biden administration warned a shutdown could mean that low-income mothers and children might find themselves without aid from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, commonly known as WIC. Without additional funding, the White House said, nearly 7 million mothers and children could risk losing that assistance as states are forced to make waiting lists.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a briefing that SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program commonly known as food stamps, would continue for at least the month of October should there be a shutdown.

"If the shutdown were to extend longer than that, there would be some serious consequences to SNAP," Vilsack said. For WIC, the impacts will be more immediate and dire: Vilsack said that USDA has a contingency fund that could keep the program afloat for "a day or two."

After that, he said, "the vast majority of WIC participants would see an immediate reduction and elimination of those benefits, which means the nutrition assistance that's provided would not be available."

The Office of Management and Budget has instructed all federal agencies to prepare contingency plans in the event of a shutdown, and it's looking increasingly likely those plans will soon have to be employed. With just a handful of days until the end of the month, lawmakers are still scrambling to find a solution that enough members will vote on to keep the government funded. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have reportedly discussed putting forth a bipartisan short-term continuing resolution to prevent a government shutdown.

But even if the Senate agrees on that measure, House Republicans continue to be at odds. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy told Punchbowl News on Tuesday that he wouldn't engage in "hypotheticals" when it comes to a clean Senate funding bill. Conservative lawmakers have also proposed attaching steep spending cuts to a government funding bill, along with stricter border policy — items the Senate is highly likely to oppose. The Washington Post's Jeff Stein reported that the GOP's cuts would exclude one million mothers and children from food assistance.

McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday that he would welcome a meeting with Biden to prevent a shutdown: "I think it would be very important to have a meeting with the president to solve that issue."

Still, the Biden administration is continuing to place the blame on House Republicans for bringing the US to the brink of a government shutdown once again. Biden said in a video posted on X, formerly Twitter, that "in just about a week, we could be facing a government shutdown if Republicans in the House of Representatives don't do their job."

"I'm prepared to do my part, but the Republicans in the House of Representatives refuse," Biden said. "They refuse to stand up to the extremists in their party, so now everyone in America could be forced to pay the price."

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