B’nai B’rith International is deeply concerned about the current government shutdown, the looming showdown over the “debt ceiling,” and the potential impact on both older Americans and other vulnerable people.
“While Social Security checks will continue to be distributed during the shutdown, some programs that serve older adults are shuttered. Moreover, if Congress doesn’t vote to raise the debt ceiling and allow the treasury to pay for the spending Congress has already approved, Social Security checks could simply stop,” B’nai B’rith International President Allan J. Jacobs said. “The shutdown itself will limit funding for so-called discretionary programs for older adults, impacting things like meals and transportation. Failure to raise the debt ceiling could put the treasury out of the business of writing the checks—which could be catastrophic.”
Under the terms of the current federal shutdown, mandatory programs like Social Security and Medicare are mostly functioning, but, for instance, people who need replacement Medicare or Social Security cards cannot get them. At the same time, spending on discretionary programs already cut by the sequester will dwindle to a stop as the shutdown lingers and reserves run out. This could leave vulnerable elderly without meal programs, personal care services and other things on which they rely.
“What’s making us very uneasy is that in the midst of a shutdown, which makes things challenging enough for vulnerable populations, we are also facing the ‘debt ceiling’ date. Voting on the debt ceiling used to be routine, but now, it has become part of the battle between parties in Congress,” B’nai B’rith International Associate Executive Vice President Mark D. Olshan said. “If the stalemate spreads to the debt ceiling, people could stop getting their Social Security checks for the first time ever. For millions of elderly and disabled Americans, Social Security is their only income.”
B’nai B’rith urges that both the funding of the government and the vote on the debt ceiling be dealt with expeditiously and independent of policy debates between parties over other issues. We recognize the right of all involved to contest any law or policy, but keeping public services available and preserving the credit and value of the U.S. dollar should not be mixed into partisan squabbles. Attending to these urgent matters will help prevent further damage to our elders.
Finally, we also ask Congress to resolve this situation without further penalizing federal workers who dedicate their careers to working for the good of the American people. We need an end to the shutdown, seamless action on the debt ceiling and to treat the federal work force with the respect, and back pay, it deserves.
Shutting down the government is an ineffectual way to provide for the needs of citizens and an inappropriate way for Congress to conduct ordinary legislative business. It is a no-win for all Americans and especially for those most vulnerable in society, including seniors, the disabled and others who rely on federal programs for important and necessary services. B’nai B’rith hopes bipartisan efforts to end this quickly and move forward with a continuing resolution will prevail.