A threatened government shutdown next Tuesday would cause a loss of jobs and income for thousands of Vermonters and hurt seniors, veterans, college students and others in the state. A shutdown could affect tourism as Vermont enters the peak of fall leaf season and interfere with health care services at the outset of the flu season. The Senate plans to work into this weekend on legislation to keep the government operating after the new budget year begins on Oct. 1. House Republicans, however, have threatened to block the so-called continuing resolution unless it also takes funds away from implementing the Affordable Care Act.
“People can disagree about the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, but it is very wrong for right-wing Republicans to hold the American people hostage and shut the government down because they can’t get their way in defunding that legislation,” Sen. Bernie Sanders said. “Shutting the government down will slow down economic growth and job creation, and it will also mean that many Vermont federal employees will not get a paycheck they deserve. It will also slow down the processing of claims for Social Security, veterans benefits and many other programs – which is extremely unfair.”
Sanders will discuss the ramifications of a shutdown at 8:20 a.m. ET Friday on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal.
Details on what programs would be affected and how have not been announced by the White House, but based on previous shutdowns here are examples of what could happen:
• Social Security Although checks for current benefits would continue to be issued even during a shutdown, applications for new benefits would be delayed and services for seniors, who make up a significant segment of the Vermont population, would be significantly curtailed. As a result of furloughs and service cuts during the last government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996, 112,000 claims for Social Security and disability benefits were not processed; 212,000 applications for Social Security numbers were not taken; and 800,000 callers were denied service on the Social Security Administration’s toll-free telephone number. Three Social Security offices in Burlington, Rutland, and Montpelier and one Social Security disability office in Waterbury will be impacted by a government shutdown.
• Veterans Health care services by the White River Junction VA Medical Center and Community Based Outpatient Clinics should not be impacted, but there could be significant delays in applying for new disability, education, pay, and pension benefits. During the 1995-96 government shutdowns, more than 400,000 veterans saw their disability benefits and pension claims delayed, while educational benefits were delayed for 170,000 veterans. There are 50,000 veterans living in Vermont.
• The Military A shutdown would delay military pay and hurt military families. The Department of Defense estimates that during a shutdown nearly half of the civilian workforce would be sent home without pay, while the rest would continue to work for delayed pay. Service members would also stay on duty without pay. Many military families live paycheck to paycheck and some have incomes so low that they qualify for food stamps. There are 490 Department of Defense employees in Vermont.
• Home Mortgages A government shutdown could delay 34,000 single-family mortgages from being approved every week. During the 1995-96 shutdowns, the FHA went from processing 2,500 mortgage loans per day to being unable to insure home loans for tens of thousands of applicants.
• Education Colleges may be unable to pay students who are employed on federal work-study programs or provide students with federal Perkins loans. There are more than 55,000 students going to colleges in Vermont.
• Head Start A government shutdown could force Head Start centers in Vermont and around the country to close. Last year, an estimated 1,600 Head Start agencies served over 950,000 children. There are seven Head Start agencies in Vermont serving more than 340 Vermonters.
• Small Business A shutdown could delay financial support for more than 1,000 small businesses a week. Last year, the Small Business Administration provided more than 53,000 loans to small businesses that led to the creation or preservation of more than 600,000 jobs. A shut down would put a stop to this critical source of small business credit until the government resumes operation.
• Travel and Tourism During the 1995-1996 shutdowns, about 200,000 applications for passports reportedly went unprocessed, and U.S. tourist industries and airlines sustained millions of dollars in losses. The St. Albans Passport Office as well as other passport offices would likely be closed and unable to issue passports to U.S. Citizens. The Vermont Service Center of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which also operates out of St. Albans, Vt., ould be closed and unable to process immigration cases and issue immigration benefits.
• Health Just in time for flu season, the Centers for Disease Control may stop monitoring disease outbreaks. The National Institutes of Health may stop answering its hotline for medical questions. The Food and Drug Administration may have to delay reviewing new drugs, meaning it would take even longer for potentially life-saving medications and therapies to get to patients.