I have a friend who was recently married. Last week, she received a letter from the government stating they were unable to process her name change request due to the government shutdown. Ironically, she noted that someone was at least getting paid to send her the letter.
While many of us are still going about our daily lives, hardly aware of the empty offices in Washington, the shutdown has had a huge impact on others. Though fears of an economic crash, food shortages, and post-apocalyptic conditions are overblown, there are many legitimate problems arising from the government forgoing certain functions.
Here are three groups of people whose personal finances are being affected by the shutdown. Are you one of them?
1. Government Workers
A large percentage of non-emergency or compliance-related personnel have been placed on furlough. If you’re a government worker, you might be experiencing a sudden non-voluntary vacation — with questionable pay. On the bright side, time off is always good for relaxation and getting things done around the house. On the downside, if you’re not getting paid as much as normal, or at all, you might not be able to pay your bills, let alone afford a real vacation.
If you’re concerned your finances will suffer, now is the perfect time to take another look at your budget and consider where you can cut spending and create a larger savings cushion. Even small changes can make a big difference. It’s also encouraging to note that, in previous shutdowns, government workers were paid retroactively.
2. Recipients of Government Benefits
In general, any government benefits that were already in place for the month of October shouldn’t be affected by the shutdown. Checks that were already cut and funds that were already electronically loaded won’t be recalled. The longer the furlough continues, however, the greater the risk of certain benefits being cut.
While Washington says Social Security won’t be cut (just as active military will continue to get paid), newly eligible applicants won’t receive benefits until after the government resumes business. As the furlough continues, veterans’ and even active military payrolls may be delayed — a possibility that has many servicemen concerned.
As with new applicants for Social Security, newly qualified participants in WIC and EBT will be placed on waiting lists. This has many humanitarian organizations concerned for the welfare of needy families, particularly women with infants and small children.
While there’s not much we can do about the government shutdown, we can keep our eyes open and be ready and willing to help those in need. If you’re someone who’s been affected, you should consider contacting non-profit organizations and churches. These institutions were helping people long before the government shutdown, and they continue to do so.
3. The Ordinary Joe
Even if you’re not in one of the previous categories, your finances might still be affected. For instance, you might run into:
- Delayed passport applications, making it impossible to travel
- Inability to obtain firearm permits, or permits to sell tobacco and alcohol
- Inability to obtain federal loans for small businesses or real estate purchases
- Stock market investment swings
The halt on these activities can drastically affect your plans for the present and future, especially if your money’s already involved. While there’s nothing to be done but wait for passports, loans, and permits, you can be proactive about your investments. The market isn’t likely to make drastic swings, but will steadily drop as the furlough continues. Now might be the time to reevaluate your portfolio. Do you have too much invested in one type of stock? Do you want to snatch up shares of certain stocks while prices are down?
The government shutdown is frustrating, nerve-racking, and downright angering to many people. While being aware of how you could be affected won’t change that, it will help you develop a game plan to come out of it financially sound.
Have you been affected by the government shutdown?