10 Groups That Stand to Suffer Most From the Government Shutdown

U.S. veteran with American flag
Photo by Anthony Correia / Shutterstock.com

Updated Oct. 10, 2013, at 11:04 ET.

Wondering just who is bearing the brunt of the federal government shutdown? Here’s a list of who’s getting hit the hardest.

You can also watch USA Today’s “Cost of the Shutdown” ticker as it continually updates the multibillion-dollar bill for shuttering the government. Analysis by IHS Global Insight puts the cost of the shutdown at $12.5 million an hour.

1. Families of service members killed in action

The families of a Marine and four soldiers killed last weekend in Afghanistan didn’t receive the $100,000 death benefit owed to them by the government. Those service members are among the 26 military members who have died since the shutdown began Oct. 1. The other families didn’t receive a check either. Usually the benefit is paid within three days.

President Obama ordered the Defense Department and the White House budget office to find an immediate legal way to pay the death benefits, NPR reported. In an agreement reached Wednesday, the Fisher House Foundation will provide the benefits to families and will be reimbursed by the Pentagon when the shutdown has ended.

Before the agreement was reached, families expressed their disappointment. NBC News reported:

“It is upsetting because my husband died for his country, and now his family is left to worry,” said Ashley Peters of Springfield, Mo., whose husband, Joseph, was a special agent assigned to the Army’s 5th Military Police Battalion and was among the five killed. “My husband always said if something happened to him we would be taken care of.”

NBC News added:

“If Congress were trapped in a car that sunk down in a river, I would swim to the window, and I would look them all in the eye and say, ‘Suck water,'” said [Pfc. Cody] Patterson’s father, Randall Patterson. He used an expletive to characterize members of Congress who “are still getting paid.”

2. Disabled and retired veterans

If the shutdown continues into late October, some 3.8 million disabled veterans will miss their November checks.

It’s “money many rely on for rent and food,” says the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

Also affected will be pension checks for 315,000 veterans and 202,000 surviving spouses and children, The Associated Press reports.

The payments total $6 billion a month.

Pay for active-duty military is not affected by the shutdown.

3. Recipients of other veterans benefits

For another window on the chaos that the lack of veteran benefits could create if the shutdown continues for long, consider students on the GI bill. The bill pays for tuition and living expense for vets and active-duty service members in school.

“It’s probably safe to assume that many student veterans would be forced to drop out of school should this occur,” a spokesman for the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office told the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

In California alone, 44,000 community college students are vets receiving tuition, housing and living allowances.

4. Veterans filing claims

Funding cuts forced the closure on Tuesday of “all 56 regional offices where veterans routinely walk in to file claims for compensation of combat- or other service-related wounds, injuries or illnesses,” USA Today reports.

Meanwhile, the processing of a large backlog of disability claims has slowed.

5. Poor moms and babies

The nearly $7 billion Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC, is “barely holding on,” Time reports.

WIC helps 9 million poor mothers, babies and children get food, formula, nutritional education, breast-feeding support and health care. It’s coasting right now on $125 million in contingency funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That money dries up at the end of the month.

More than half — 53 percent — of all infants born in the U.S. get help from WIC. Time reports:

“I’m worried,” said [Ohio recipient Tiffanie] Peters, who gets about $75 a month to buy the right foods she needs to provide healthy breast milk to her baby. “[WIC] keeps our cycle of life continuing.”

Food stamps and most school lunch and breakfast programs will continue, the AP says.

6. Head Start kids

A small number of Head Start programs, about 20 out of 1,600 nationally, have been closed, the AP reports, and more will close if the shutdown doesn’t end soon. Head Start helps prepare a million preschool kids from low-income families for school.

7. Home sellers and homebuyers

You could face delays getting a mortgage if you’re using a government-backed mortgage program. No USDA loans, used by many rural and suburban borrowers, are being issued, reports Bloomberg Businessweek.

Also, the Federal Housing Administration, which guarantees about 30 percent of home mortgages, can’t underwrite or approve new loans, AP says.

For all mortgages, including those backed by USDA and FHA, lenders must verify borrowers’ Social Security numbers and tax returns, but they can’t do that now because of federal staff cutbacks. Some lenders are working around the problems. Others cannot.

“With both the IRS and the Social Security Administration closed, mortgage lending at many institutions is at a standstill,” Bloomberg writes.

8. Federal workers

A skeleton crew of 300 will be left to watch over the nation’s 100 commercial nuclear power plants after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission furloughs 3,600 employees at the close of business today, CNN reports.

Watchdog Ed Lyman, a senior scientist with the civilian Union of Concerned Scientists, told CNN:

“I’m not expecting overnight that it’s going to be a collapse of safety,” he said. “You can only hope for the best that a situation doesn’t occur during this time.”

In other government agencies, some employees are returning to work. Of the estimated 800,000 federal employees furloughed after the shutdown, about half are going back on the job — mostly civilian Defense Department workers. Says USA Today:

There is a hitch: There is no guarantee that workers who have been called back or those who are still furloughed will be paid. The House passed a bill to pay those working and another bill to pay those on furlough. The bills are currently in the Senate.

9. Federal contracted workers

The House agreed to pay furloughed federal government workers retroactively, but not contractors, who “provide services that range from safeguarding computer networks and designing military machines to cleaning offices and doing repairs,” The Washington Post says.

The number of contractors affected is unknown. Federal spending on contracting was $518 billion in 2012, about twice what it was in the mid-’90s. Larger companies that contract with the government may be able to pay employees for a few weeks at most. Smaller companies aren’t so lucky, the Post says.

10. Tourists

Visitors to national parks and Smithsonian museums are being turned away, the AP says. Included: overnight campgrounds and other park facilities, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Alcatraz Island in San Francisco, and the Washington Monument in the nation’s capital.

“That’s having a ripple effect on those businesses and communities that rely on tourism,” AP says.

Have you or your family members been affected by the shutdown? Share your experience on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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