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What The Shutdown Means For Disability Services


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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.

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Comments (19 Responses)

  1. Steve Dunleavy says:

    It is shameful that America’s disabled citizens could in any way be negatively affected by this profound political atrocity. Health Care reform is here. The law was passed by the rules of law and government. To punish innocents to advance an extremist political agenda is, in my opinion, an outrage.

  2. Susan Dooha says:

    Wow! Great article!

  3. Rosemary Nilles says:

    Very troublesome that citizens with disabilities and those most in need are being held hostage to political brinksmanship.

  4. vmgillen says:

    The shutdown has impacts above and beyond the obvious. My group is in the midst of a lawsuit, and just received a notice that all action connected to the suit is suspended – meanwhile, the violators get to continue their practices unchecked. So, in an effort to get around the rules of our country (democracy, Supreme Court decisions, et al.) these bullies are also cutting off access to justice. If you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention.

  5. Sandra Stahlman says:

    Well said, Steve Dunleavy! What he said :)

  6. Carolyn says:

    After fighting hard for my twenty year old daughter to be added to programs that she rightfully deserves, the company now says “sorry, there is nothing we can do”. This really is a hard situation to deal with! I worked hard since the age of sixteen paid into taxes, now at my age 43 I have to pick up a second job so I can pay for these services AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. gregsdad says:

    I only wonder if this is a practice for and more difficult choses around resources i.e. Medicaid .., for the future? they already have us competing for the same dollars and putting us long waiting lists. I hope things get better.

  8. NC says:

    I don’t want Obama Care to bankrupt this country. Why not postpone Obama Care for 10 years, and give the government time to find money to fund the huge bills that will be coming to our country as a result of Obama Care? Postpone Obama care, and figure out how to fund it first! I really hate that NASA was shut down, and saying that the states have money to fund special education, housing, medicare and social security in October does nothing to alleviate the problems of cut funding in November and beyond. Common sense should prevail here, not politics.

  9. Whitney says:

    I gone without healthcare and when I needed medication to control my seizures it cost me my whole paycheck. I had healthcare insurance and the medication cost me $2 to $4 for the same prescription drug. Now if you think that it government should not provide medical insurance look at the bang up job private sector did, 2/3 of bankruptcies are due to medical expenses and most people go in to debt. I think Obamacare is 40 to 60 years over do . Because all the major and rising economic powers have some form of government run healthcare our current system is not viable for long term of the country future. It simple economics. If we can not make Healthcare more affordable then we will have bankrupt country. Healthcare current system is helping to destroy the middle class.

  10. Cari Watrous says:

    I hope our President and the democratic leadership hold on and fight for the Affordable Care Act. The enormous debt our country is facing is largely due to Republican wars and people in need of health care shouldn’t be the ones paying the price.

  11. rick ritter says:

    it concerns me that you exclude info regarding disabled veterans in your update on the shutdown

  12. Cheryl says:

    We can all thank the rich republican party for this mess.

  13. Matt S says:

    My kid has had to delay his application to receive library materials through NLS (the National Library Service for the Blind) because of the government shut-down.

  14. trapper creek says:

    I’ve been trying to read most of the media outlets’ analysis of the “shutdown,” and the associated failure by America’s legislative branch to conduct basic business. So little of this shutdown makes sense to me.

    My questions: Who is benefiting from all this? How can this type of obstructionism be viewed as a successful political strategy, let alone good governance? Has the far right of the Republican party become America’s version of Al-Quada’s suicide bombers?

    And to think we want to spread American-style democracy around the world. Who would want it?

    Shame on America and its weak leaders. Shame on those who wish to further marginalize this country’s poor – reducing SNAP, reducing HUD, complaining about health care coverage for those currently without…

    What went wrong with how these people were raised? Or, how they were taught to view the value and dignity of other humans?

    We need to become more active and informed voters if we don’t want this to continue. It’s that simple and difficult at the same time.

  15. Faye Adams says:

    It greatly angers and saddens me to think that the egotistical and ideology driven Congress members apparently have no qualms about the harm that they are doing to so many people. Obamacare is not the real threat. It is the lack of ability to work things out that is the real threat to our nation’s people with disabilities as well as others.

  16. Amber Woods says:

    What about foodstamps? im just asking. i do not recieve them but a friend who works on a farm and has a 1.5 year old girl needs it. the dad only works depending on the weather, the mom doesnt work but stays at home with the baby because she has no one to watch her.

  17. WendyMom says:

    I’m on SSDI & my auto-deposit for this month has been “pending” at the bank for 3 days. It is making me anxious, which is one of three disorders that put me on disability in the first place. What’s wrong with this picture, eh?

  18. Adrienne Lauby says:

    Thank you for this great information. We should also add the cut off of WIC payments to parents. This serves poor children with disabilities as well as able bodied children. WIC serves 9 million poor women and their children. And Head Start, and HUD…. This shut down is bad for poor people and people with disabilities. The Republicans are to blame.

  19. Worried says:

    What if you have a court date for your ssdi hearing on December 23 in California? I’m a single mother of two with dissabilities and have been waiting 2 yrs for this approval that I know I would otherwise be approved for. Does this mean I won’t be?
    I’m so scared :'(

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