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 November 01, 2023

Government Shutdown 2023: What Does it Mean for You?

Traffic sign outside of Big Bend National Park alerting drivers to a previous government shutdown that has shutdown the park.

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the news, you’ve probably heard that our country recently avoided a government shutdown. However, the fact that we didn’t experience a government shutdown in October doesn’t mean we’ll avoid one entirely. By the end of 2023, we could find ourselves navigating another government shutdown in the United States. What does this mean for you, your family, and many other families in the U.S.?

What is a government shutdown?Illustration of United States Flage with the word SHUTDOWN written across the flag

The fiscal year runs from October 1 and ends September 30 of the next year. Congress follows this fiscal year in its decisions on annual appropriation bills. When Congress cannot agree on these appropriation bills by September 30, the government must shut down until decisions are made.

Congress has 12 appropriation bills to vote on each year to continue funding these various government functions:

  • National defense agencies including the military and intelligence
  • Homeland Security
  • Military Construction and Veterans Affairs
  • U.S. State Department and USAID
  • Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and other USDA agencies
  • Department of the Interior, the U.S. Forest Service and the EPA
  • Department of Energy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • Department of Commerce, NASA, Department of Justice, etc.
  • Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, and Department of Labor
  • Executive Office of the President and the Department of the Treasury
  • House of Representatives, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Capitol
  • Department of Transportation and HUD

When Congress cannot agree on funding for each of these government functions, those functions essentially stall. Congress can make a backup decision toward continuing resolutions, otherwise known as CRs. CRs are temporary spending bills that follow the same structure as the previous fiscal year, thereby avoiding a shutdown until a specific date, when Congress will hopefully decide on the new year’s appropriation bills.

What happens during a government shutdown?

When the government shuts down, this essentially shuts down jobs within the federal functions that are temporarily not funded. Some government employees may be deemed “non-essential,” meaning they are laid off without pay. However, it’s assumed that these employees would receive their wages once the government opens again. But sometimes, workers who are seasonal or contract are simply out of luck and never receive their wages.

College students can also be heavily affected by a government shutdown if they’re recipients of federal financial aid, such as Pell Grants or FAFSA.

Typically, a government shutdown impacts not only federal employees or students, but also local and state economies. Air travel is affected; natural disaster funding slows down; small businesses can’t receive federal loans; medical research is delayed; even national parks, water quality, and farming are impacted.

When was the last government shutdown?

Many of us may remember the previous government shutdown, which lasted from December 22, 2018, to January 25, 2019. But you may not know that this was the longest government shutdown in nearly 40 years.

What will happen during the government shutdown 2023?

During the 2023 government shutdown, you can expect to see many types of jobs come to a standstill or continue without pay.

Who is affected by a government shutdown?

  • Military and law enforcement personnel will continue working without pay or be furloughed for the duration of the shutdown.
  • Passport services such as processing and renewal are already delayed and may stop completely.
  • The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) may stop benefiting families.
  • Veterans Affairs services may shut down, but veterans should still receive benefits such as health care, compensation, education, and burials.
  • Tax refunds and some Social Security benefits could be delayed.
  • Highway construction and rural development may slow down.
  • The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) may stop inspecting workplace safety.

The United States Capitol building in Washington D.C.What does this mean for you?

It’s possible that you could be impacted by the government shutdown, if one occurs. A government shutdown can cause a ripple effect on local, state, and even national levels. You may find your job affected, or you may experience rising prices in your cost of living. We don’t know your situation; unfortunately, we can’t speak directly to you about whether the government shutdown could affect you personally or not. But please carefully review the lists of government functions and federal jobs that we’ve provided above.

Speak with your boss. Find out if they have a plan for if the government shuts down this calendar year. If your employer communicates with you, you can start preparing for any eventuality.

How can you protect yourself in a government shutdown?

Plan ahead! If you already have airplane tickets for a trip later this year when the shutdown could happen, make sure you get documentation about your reserved trip. If you know you’ll need to buy tickets later, pay with a card; this makes it easier for you to get a refund if your trip gets delayed or canceled in the future.

Look out for scams. Scammers will take every opportunity to trick you into giving up your money and personal info. Criminals may call you with offers of help in exchange for money. They may pretend to be a government agency that wants to help you out of a tight financial issue. If it seems too good to be true, don’t fall for it. The best practice is to avoid giving anyone your personal information over the phone or email. You can report suspected scammers at www.ncdoj.gov/complaint.

One of the best steps you can take is to have legal protection before disaster strikes. LegalShield is here to give you access to an entire, dedicated provider law firm for consultation on personal legal issues that may arise before and during a government shutdown. Your LegalShield provider law firm can offer advice, provide consultations, answer questions, review paperwork, make phone calls and more on your behalf. Prepare for contingencies as a LegalShield Member.

Additionally, LegalShield’s network of provider law firms can advise you on personal consumer finance issues to help you manage personal legal financial questions that may pop up while you’re preparing your assets during a government shutdown with the help of a Personal and Family Legal Plan.


Pre-Paid Legal Services, Inc. (“PPLSI”) provides access to legal services offered by a network of provider law firms to PPLSI members through membership-based participation. Neither PPLSI nor its officers, employees or sales associates directly or indirectly provide legal services, representation, or advice. The information available in this blog is meant to provide general information and is not intended to provide legal advice, render an opinion, or provide any specific recommendations. The blog post is not a substitute for competent legal counsel from a licensed professional lawyer in the state or province where your legal issues exist, and the reader is strongly encouraged to seek legal counsel for your specific legal matter. Information contained in the blog may be provided by authors who could be a third-party paid contributor. All information by authors is accepted in good faith, however, PPLSI makes no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability, or completeness of such information.


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