Constituent Services: Impact of Government Shutdown


I know this government shutdown brings uncertainty for all of us. Whether you’re a federal employee, a member of our military, or someone who relies on critical programs to help put food on the table or keep a roof over your family’s head, this shutdown is not easy. I am completely opposed to this shutdown, which was caused by a small group of extreme House Republicans who are holding working families hostage.

There’s a lot of confusion about what programs are operating, what are limited, and what are open. I’ll be doing my best to provide you with updated information as we get it. In the meantime, I want you to know that during this shutdown, my Lowell and Washington offices will remain open, and we will continue to serve our constituents, just as we always have.

Please give us a call at (978) 459-0101 if you’re in need of assistance or refer to the FAQs below.

Lori Trahan


Will I continue to receive my Social Security and SSI checks?

Recipients will continue to receive their Social Security and SSI checks. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will provide limited services like issuing Social Security cards and holding appointments for benefit applications. However, SSA will stop services like benefit verifications and processing overpayments

Additionally, customer service wait times have increased significantly during previous shutdowns.

Will my mail still arrive?                                                                                                   

Yes. The approximately 500,000 Postal Service employees will continue delivering mail because the Postal Service is self-funded.

What is the impact on veterans' services?                                                                  

During a government shutdown, all VA medical facilities and clinics will remain fully operational. However, VA call centers and hotlines cease to function, and Veterans Benefits Administration public contact services are not available.

In addition, the 2013 16-day shutdown stopped progress in reducing veterans' disability claims backlog, which had previously been progressing at a rate of almost 20,000 claims per week. Also during the 2013 16-day shutdown, many veterans lost access to vocational rehabilitation and education counseling services.

What is the impact on U.S. military personnel?                                                        

All military personnel will continue their normal duty status without pay. Civilian personnel who are necessary to carry out expected activities will continue to work, but also will not be paid. Any civilian personnel that are not deemed essential will be furloughed. Additionally, elective surgeries for personnel will not be available during the shutdown. 

Will I still be able to visit the national parks and monuments?

National Parks usually remain open during a shutdown, but certain services are halted. Visitor centers will be closed, entrance fees won't be collected, educational programs will be canceled, and campsites won't be staffed. In many instances, restrooms will be closed and services like trash collection and road maintenance will be suspended. There are also limited emergency/rescue services.

Will air travel be affected?                                                                                         

Travelers could face longer lines at airport security checkpoints and flight delays during a shutdown. Some TSA agents did not report for work during the 2018-2019 shutdown, and some air traffic controllers were also absent, causing delays at major airports. Additionally, passports will continue to be issued, but processing of applications may be delayed or halted in an extended shutdown or at certain locations.

What is the impact on small businesses?

A shutdown halts federal loans to small businesses. During a shutdown, the Small Business Administration stops approving applications for small businesses to obtain loans and loan guarantees. Moody’s Analytics estimated that the 2018-2019 shutdown delayed over $2 billion in loans to small businesses.

What is the impact on federal housing loans?

During a shutdown, the Federal Housing Administration stops approving applications for housing loans.

What is the impact on food safety activities?

During a shutdown, the Food and Drug Administration is unable to support the majority of its food safety activities, along with many of its other safety inspections. 

What is the impact on the Centers for Disease Control?

During a shutdown, CDC has to greatly curtail its activities that conduct flu and COVID-19 surveillance and monitoring, promote immunization, support state and local health departments, and update disease treatment and prevention recommendations.

Which federal employees keep working during a government shutdown?

When there is a government shutdown, federal agencies are required to classify their employees as either "essential" or "non-essential." The employees classified as "essential" continue to work during the shutdown. However, the employees classified as "non-essential" are put on unpaid furlough. In Massachusetts, a large portion of the federal workforce would be furloughed—meaning that they would not be allowed to work and would only be paid after the shutdown ends. For the nearly 30,000 federal employees in the Commonwealth, this could mean economic instability for their families. 

Do furloughed federal employees get back pay?

After the 2018/2019 shutdown, Congress passed legislation to guarantee back pay for all furloughed federal employees. However, for the tens of thousands of federal contractors who may get furloughed during a government shutdown, back pay is not guaranteed.

How will this affect Citizenship and Immigration?                                                                                      

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offices will remain open, however with decreased staff, slowdowns and processing delays are to be expected.

What is the process to end a government shutdown, and can the President unilaterally end it?

To end a government shutdown, Congress needs to pass, and the President must sign legislation to fund the departments and agencies that have been shut down. The President does not have the power to end a shutdown unilaterally. The funding bills follow the same legislative process as any other bill, requiring approval from both the House and Senate before the President can sign them into law.

What is the impact of a government shutdown on the public and the U.S. economy? 

Shutdowns are detrimental to both the public, who face service and program disruptions, and federal employees, who are either furloughed or required to work without pay. Moreover, they pose a significant strain on government resources. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and federal agencies need to develop and implement shutdown plans, a process that requires substantial staff time and resources, potentially detracting from public services.

Shutdowns also cause revenue losses, such as those from visitor fees or gift store sales when national parks close. Additionally, shutdowns negatively impact the economy. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the 2018-2019 shutdown cost the U.S. economy $11 billion.