How government shutdown would affect Georgia, South Carolina

Published: Sep. 29, 2023 at 5:35 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. - If the federal government shuts down, payments for Social Security and benefits for Medicare and Medicaid will still continue for folks in Georgia and South Carolina.

But a shutdown would have far-reaching impacts in other ways, ranging from delayed paychecks for federal workers to the closure of some national parks.

Federal operations deemed “non-essential” would come to a halt.

Airports, public health and safety departments, government services and even airports in the two-state region are all bracing for impact in the event that a deal doesn’t come in time.

“The things that are going to be affected are the ones that are in regular, annual appropriations bills because those are the ones that Congress is having trouble passing,” said Georgia State University political science professor Jeffrey Lazarus.

He says services and programs financed through other means, like the way Social Security is funded through a payroll tax, will not be affected.

“Social Security benefits will not be affected, the Post Office is funded essentially through the sale of stamps and other services so it’s not funded through regular appropriations, so it won’t be affected,” said Lazarus. “Amtrak is funded through ticket sales, so it won’t be affected.”

Lazarus says some services might be delayed due to short staffing and the government prioritizing certain work.

“If you are a citizen who is in dispute with the IRS and you are in a dispute resolution or if there is an agency that owes you money and that payment needs to be processed, those services are less likely to happen or if they do happen, they might happen more slowly during a shutdown,” said Lazarus.

Food assistance faces uncertainty

Critical food assistance is on the line as the government inches toward a shutdown.

According to the Georgia Department of Human Services, more than 1.4 million Georgians who rely on SNAP benefits could see their food assistance delayed later this fall if a shutdown drags on.

The White House says money for WIC – supplemental food assistance for women, infants, and children – could be exhausted in a matter of days in many states if the federal government shuts down.

But the director of the state agency that oversees this program in South Carolina says that’s not the case in the Palmetto State.


“Their benefits should not be changed anytime in the near future. Now if this runs months and months, that could change, but for now, I think we can reassure everyone that’s involved with the WIC program that their benefits will continue,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, director of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

He says his agency’s staff has been preparing for a potential shutdown – and should have enough money to carry through October for the more than 90,000 South Carolinians rely on WIC benefits.

Many more – around 630,000 – are enrolled in SNAP – what used to be known as the food stamp program.

That’s under the jurisdiction of the Department of Social Services – whose director says recipients will be covered through the next month if the federal government shuts down.

“We’ve been assured there will be benefits through October, and we’re hoping from some guidance from the federal government if it goes on any longer to figure out what’s next after October,” said Michael Leach, agency chief.

Travel trouble is possible

Georgia is the site of the world’s busiest airport – Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport – and a shutdown could cause problems there.

According to the White House, 1,727 Transportation Security Administration officers and 577 air traffic controllers in Georgia would be required to work without pay under a shutdown.

Less than five years ago, a government shutdown forced Transportation Security Administration officers to work without knowing when they’d see their next paycheck.

“People had to make decisions on whether to feed their families, buy diapers or come to work,” said Aaron Barker, who represents Georgia TSA workers as the local president for AFGE Local 554.

“We don’t want them to have to make those decisions again,” Barker said.

Barker said he’s encouraging TSA officers to still come to work should there be a shutdown. But he’s hoping a government shutdown will be averted.

“We are urging all of our members to call their congressional members and urge them to keep the government open,” said Barker.

The airport issued this statement:

“We’re monitoring the situation and are prepared to address any operational challenges caused by the shutdown. During similar events in the past, we collaborated with our partners to ensure federal employees who are required to work with deferred pay are provided the resources necessary to maintain their well-being. We expect to do the same if needed this year.”