Government Shutdown: What You Need to Know
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Government Shutdown: What You Need to Know

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October 1, 2013

At midnight, a significant portion of the federal government shut down because House Republicans refused to pass a continuing resolution (CR) to fund government agencies past Sept. 30 without also delaying the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

What Happened?

In the final hours, House Republicans continued their effort to hold the CR hostage to demands to repeal or delay implementation of the ACA, even though the Senate and White House have consistently said they would reject those provisions.

Meanwhile, the Senate passed a “clean” CR to provide funding through Nov. 15 with no ACA limitations. However, even the Senate bill fails to undo the sequester, locking in significant cuts to discretionary programs such as the Older Americans Act (OAA).

NCOA and many other groups, including governors in both parties and corporations led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are calling on Congress to end the shutdown. NCOA also is advocating that the ACA be implemented on time as provided for in the law.

What Does it Mean for Senior Programs?

At least in the short term, the effect on programs and benefits for older adults varies:

Federal Agencies

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services will furlough more than half of its workforce, with “grant-making and employee-intensive agencies” such as the Administration for Community Living (ACL), seeing the biggest losses. Learn more about shutdown plans from all federal agencies.

ACL posted on its website that it will not be updating online content and advised that: "If you need assistance in accessing services for older adults, please contact the Eldercare Locator at 1-800-677-1116."

Benefits

Social Security checks will be mailed, and Medicare and Medicaid benefits will continue, since these are “mandatory” rather than “discretionary” programs. Benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) will be available through October.

Community Programs

OAA and other ACL programs will continue if states and localities already have drawn down enough funding. But no new resources will be available after Oct. 1 for Senior Nutrition programs, Native American Nutrition and Supportive Services, Prevention of Elder Abuse and Neglect, Long-Term Care Ombudsman, and Protection and Advocacy for persons with developmental disabilities. Learn more about ACL plans.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has noted that Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) services will continue, although new host agencies should be found for participants assigned to federal agencies, at least temporarily.

Quarterly formula grants will not go out for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), or the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG).

Nutrition programs serving older adults face a double whammy with no FY14 appropriations and no reauthorization of the Farm Bill. The Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program expired along with the Farm Bill on Sept. 30. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) requires appropriations to continue operating.

What's Ahead?

The longer the shutdown drags on, the greater the chance that more services will be affected in states and local communities, as stopgap provisions end and resources provided earlier in the year dry up. There are also significant costs attributed to government shutdowns, and ripple effects are expected throughout the economy.

Watch your email for more details as they emerge.

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