The United States federal government entered a shutdown on October 1, 2013, suspending discretionary services deemed “non-essential” by the Antideficiency Act. As a result of the government’s failure to enact a budget or continuing resolution for the 2014 fiscal year, appropriations have lapsed and approximately 800,000 federal employees have been indefinitely furloughed without pay, while a further 1.3 million “essential” employees are required to report to work indefinitely but will not be paid until a budget is passed.  What does this mean for individuals with disabilities?

HOUSING HUD’s largest rental assistance programs, the Housing Choice Voucher, Public Housing, and Project-Based Rental Assistance programs, appear to have funding to continue normal operations through October, either through previously-obligated funding or advance appropriations. After October, HUD’s contingency plan is largely silent.

FINANCIAL BENEFIT SERVICES 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. T he Social Security administration won’t have enough staff to schedule new hearings for those applying for disability benefits. And the Veterans Appeal Board will be closed, which means veterans appealing a decision on disability benefits will have to wait until the shutdown ends.

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.  There is some concern that the longer the federal government is shut down, long-term care services and support services could see delayed payments.

MEDICARE Patients can continue to see their doctors but new applicants may be turned away.

HEAD START PROGRAMS There are some 1,600 Head Start programs around the country providing education, health, nutrition and other services to roughly 1 million low-income children and their families, which includes children and families with disabilities.  Those will slowly begin closing during a shutdown, depending on how long the shutdown continues.

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.”

IDEA (Individuals with Disability Education Act) IDEA funding for the 2013-2014 school-year was provided in part by a regular appropriation for 2013 that was forward funded ( i.e., first available on July 1, 2013 and remaining available for 15 months). In short, IDEA already has funding for this school year and will be unaffected by a shutdown.