We’re pretty sure that you’ve heard all the hoopla in the media: Congress is debating an increase in the debt ceiling, reminding us that a government shutdown could result from failing to take on more debts to cover the budget.
For now, the crisis has been averted. On the evening of September 30, Congress passed a stopgap measure to continue funding government operations through December 3. So for now, we don’t have to worry about a government shutdown. But Congress must again confront the budget shortfalls by October 18, since that’s the date that our current debt ceiling will be exhausted. If Congress does not vote to raise the ceiling, the government won’t be able to cover everything in the budget.
A government shutdown sounds scary, but what does it mean, exactly? You might be picturing closed government offices, and a shutdown would indeed mean a halt in some normal operations. For example, while the Social Security Administration has promised that checks would continue to be delivered during a government shutdown, they would indeed pause most other activities. But in the past, furloughed workers had to wait until normal operations resumed before receiving their own paychecks.
Likewise, IRS operations would be affected by a shutdown. Still running behind due to the processing of millions of stimulus payments, a new deadline looms. On October 15, millions of tax returns are expected from taxpayers who filed for extensions. In a government shutdown, the IRS could only operate without about 40 percent of its staff on board. The rest would be furloughed. Operations would slow, but refund checks would still go out.
On the other hand, failing to raise the debt ceiling could mean that the government is unable to pay all sorts of expenses, including Social Security checks and even tax refunds. So it’s the debt ceiling controversy, not the “government shutdown” that should concern most of us.
So yes, averting a government shutdown was good news. But we must all wait on news on a bigger issue: What will Congress do about the debt ceiling, and how will expenses be paid if the ceiling is not raised?
We’ll keep you updated on this situation as it develops throughout the rest of the year. For now, give us a call if you’re feeling concerned about your long-term financial plan. We can help you make any adjustments that we decide are necessary.