What will happen with Social Security if the government shuts down?: A government shutdown is likely less than a week away, and could continue for a while. What does that mean for those who receive Social Security?
Social Security and a Government Shutdown: What Happens?
With Democrats battling with Republicans, and Republicans fighting each other, it’s looking very likely that a government shutdown will begin in less than a week.
As with most government shutdowns, it will likely lead to furloughs of government employees, as well as some employees going without pay.
But what it won’t do is affect Social Security payments, should a shutdown begin on October 1.
According to CNN, which stated that many seniors had written in asking about the status of their payments, they can rest easy. That’s because Social Security payments are not funded by the sort of discretionary spending that’s subject to the federal budget process, but rather by the Social Security trust fund. This has also been the case in past government shutdowns.
“The bottom line is Social Security payments still go out even during a government shutdown,” Jason Fichtner, chief economist at the Bipartisan Policy Center and a former official with the Social Security Administration, told CNN.
In addition to the payments being still on time, Social Security Administration offices will remain open. However, a minority of employees will be furloughed, and some services may be delayed.
Medicare and Veterans Affairs benefits will also not be affected, should the government shut down, NBC News said.
Even independent of a potential shutdown, there are questions about Social Security’s long term solvency. As of earlier this year, the main trust funds that fund Social Security are scheduled to lose the ability to pay full benefits in 2034. After that, the funds will be able to pay out something less than the full amount, should Congress not act before then.
In the first two years of President Biden’s term, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, there were some proposals in Congress to reform Social Security, although none of them were taken up by the Congressional leadership or came close to becoming law.
One of those was the Social Security 2100 Act, introduced by Rep. John Larson (D-CT), who has been proposing versions of that proposal for several years. Larson introduced another version of the bill in July.
“This Bill (hereafter referred to as the proposal) includes 16 provisions with direct effects on the Social Security trust funds,” Larson wrote while introducing the bill. “As detailed in this letter, these provisions would provide benefit enhancements that would, for 12 of the provisions, apply for eligible benefits for affected individuals in ten years (generally 2025 through 2034), and then revert to current-law benefit levels for eligible benefits after the ten-year period. The descriptions of these provisions and our estimates reflect our understanding of the intended effects for this proposal.”
Some progressives, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), have introduced their own legislation, once again earlier this year, to expand Social Security benefits.
“At a time when nearly half of older Americans have no retirement savings and almost 50 percent of our nation’s seniors are trying to survive on an income of less than $25,000 a year, our job is not to cut Social Security,” Sen. Sanders said at the time of the introduction. “Our job is to expand Social Security so that every senior in America can retire with the dignity that they deserve and every person with a disability can live with the security they need.
In the 2022 midterms, Democrats made a lot of political hay out of some Republicans’ proposals to private Social Security. One Republican, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), had even proposed making Social Security part of discretionary spending- which would, in fact, cost recipients their Social Security checks in the event of a government shutdown. (Johnson, for his part, has also proposed a law that would make government shutdowns a thing of the past.)
Last year, Social Security recipients got a big cost-of-living (COLA) raise due to rising inflation, although with inflation having dropped since then, a similar raise this year is unlikely.
Author Expertise and Experience
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Stephen has authored thousands of articles over the years that focus on politics, technology, and the economy for over a decade. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @StephenSilver, and subscribe to his Substack newsletter.