By Michelle Diament | October 1, 2013
As the first U.S. government shutdown in more than 17 years takes hold, some programs benefiting people with disabilities will continue with business as usual while others grind to a halt.
The shutdown, which began Tuesday, comes after Congress failed to reach a deal to fund the federal government for the new fiscal year starting in October. Under a shutdown, some services considered “essential” will continue operating while many other government activities will come to a standstill as 800,000 federal workers are sent home until a new budget takes effect.
Here’s a look at how the shutdown will impact programs that people with developmental disabilities rely on:
SOCIAL SECURITY Benefit payments will continue to be distributed on schedule to individuals receiving Social Security and Supplemental Security Income. Local offices will be open, but only to perform select services.
MEDICAID Services provided by Medicaid will largely proceed as usual since an advance appropriation ensured that states receive funding for the program on Oct. 1. However, disability advocates say they are worried that the shutdown could exacerbate payment delays that providers of long-term services and supports are already facing. “The long delays have put many of our affiliates in almost untenable cash flow positions and further delays may cause some to cease Medicaid services,” said Katy Neas, senior vice president of government relations at Easter Seals.
HOUSING The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says it will not be able to provide further funding to local housing agencies during the shutdown. However, most local agencies already have enough money to fund rental assistance vouchers for the month of October, more than half of which help the elderly and people with disabilities.
SPECIAL EDUCATION Schools won’t see much impact immediately, with states receiving $22 billion in special education funds on schedule this month from the federal government, the U.S. Department of Education said.
DISABILITY RIGHTS ENFORCEMENT The U.S. Department of Justice says that civil litigation, which includes the enforcement of disability rights laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act, will be “curtailed or postponed” to the extent possible.
RESEARCH Developmental disability surveillance programs — which track the prevalence of such conditions — will come to a halt during the shutdown, said Barbara Reynolds of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health will not make any new grant awards for research.