Congress Avoids Government Shutdown Again – Forbes Advisor

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Congress has approved legislation to maintain government funding and avoid a government shutdown until March 11.

The vote came just a day before funding expires on Feb. 18, averting another period of obscurity within the federal government.

The interim funding legislation is seen as a bipartisan victory and offers lawmakers more time to continue negotiations on an annual funding plan.

This is the third extension Congress has passed in lieu of a long-term spending agreement. The first took place at the end of September when the previous year’s budget was about to expire; lawmakers passed a short-term spending deal that lasted until early December, when the deadline was pushed back again to February.

The new funding agreement is good news for millions of federal workers who would have gone without jobs and paychecks had it not passed; a shutdown would be particularly inconvenient during the ongoing tension on the Russian-Ukrainian border.

But it’s only a matter of time before we discuss the potential next stop. Lawmakers will have to approve the funding again in just a few weeks and would aim to pass longer-term legislation then.

As with all things in Congress, however, we never know what might happen. Here’s what could happen during a shutdown, if lawmakers miss the next funding deadline.

4 services that could be affected by a government shutdown

When a government shutdown occurs, non-essential federal services stop until new funding legislation is passed and enacted. Each federal agency has its own closure plan, which outlines whether its operations can continue during the shutdown and whether it should lay off employees.

According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), many programs are exempt from a government shutdown. However, many services would suffer negative consequences that would be passed on to ordinary Americans. Here are four of the biggest.

1. Delays at the IRS

During a government shutdown, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would not be able to verify income and Social Security numbers. It would also have difficulty answering taxpayer questions and resolving compliance issues quickly.

During the September 2021 scramble to push through government funding, press secretary Jen Psaki said that even if a shutdown occurs and the majority of IRS employees are furloughed, the agency should continue. to process tax refunds. It is likely that this would apply now if the government ran out of funding.

2. Food Stamp Delivery Challenges

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly referred to as food stamps, has been a critical lifeline for families struggling with the economic consequences of the pandemic.

While a government shutdown will not reduce funding, it could result in food stamps not being distributed. According to the CRFB, past continuing resolutions have only allowed benefits to be sent for 30 days after a shutdown begins.

If the shutdown were to be prolonged, families with limited means could be forced to drastically reduce their grocery budget.

3. New Social Security and Veterans Affairs applications will not be processed

Those currently receiving Social Security benefits would not be affected by a government shutdown.

But new applications or requests for federal benefits, such as Social Security or Veterans Affairs payments, would not be processed during a government shutdown, which could lead to a delay in receiving first payments.

4. National parks and monuments could close

National parks have proven to be a hugely popular haven during the pandemic – in 2021 Yellowstone set monthly visitation records.

However, a government shutdown could put an end to the outdoor projects of many Americans. During the 2013 government shutdown, more than 300 parks, national monuments and other sites were closed (although many remained open during the 2018-2019 shutdown, but without visitor services or maintenance).

If another shutdown occurs, it may affect whether national parks and monuments remain open.

Why were we faced with another shutdown?

Congress has passed temporary fixes to keep government open since early fall. The interim measures bought more time for lawmakers, who continued to squabble over what should be included in a long-term funding bill.

In addition to the political drama, the country is still grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has previously said a pandemic would be a terrible time for a government shutdown.

“The worst time in the world when we want to shut down government is in the middle of a pandemic where 140,000 people a day are infected and 2,000 people are dying a day,” Fauci said in a September interview with The Washington Post. . “This is the time when you want the government to work full throttle to fix this problem.”

Although the highly contagious Omicron variant of Covid-19 appears to be declining, in early February President Joe Biden recently marked the US death toll from the pandemic reaching 900,000.

The longest government shutdown in history, lasting 35 days, occurred between 2018 and 2019. It began when former President Donald Trump requested funding for a $5.7 billion wall between the United States and Mexico and refused to sign a government funding bill that did not. include it.

An estimated 800,000 federal workers and 1.2 million contractors went without pay during this time, which happened over the holiday season, with some workers so negatively impacted that they applied for unemployment benefits. unemployment.

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