Policy Matters Blog

Key Things to Know if the Government Shuts Down

Without federal funding in place for FY 2024 or a plan for short-term "continuation" funding, the federal government is at risk of shutting down at 12:01 a.m. this Sunday, October 1. Lawmakers have a lot to negotiate to avoid a shutdown with an enormous gulf between the House and Senate appropriations bills to fund the government for FY 2024. If a government shutdown comes to pass, there are some key things you should know.

Immediate pauses would go into effect on October 1.

Impact Aid funding would pause immediately, affecting 10% of schools and approximately 10 million students.

  • Impact Aid is an education funding program for districts with federally owned land. Those who benefit from the program include students from Native American tribes, students with parents in the military, and students who live in federal public housing. This would create significant funding challenges for these districts and deepen inequities for vulnerable student populations.

Head Start programs would pause immediately.

  • According to the White House, "10,000 children across the country would immediately lose access to Head Start." Since the schedule of grant payments for Head Start agencies is on rotation, the longer the shutdown goes, the more Head Start classrooms will be temporarily closed because of lack of available funding.

The consequences and challenges of a shutdown would grow the longer it lasts.

Free and reduced-price lunch program funding would pause.

  • During the last (and longest) government shutdown in 2018, the pause in federal money for free and reduced-price lunch programs was a key concern for school leaders. The longer the shutdown lasted, the more creative school leaders became to continue feeding kids, which is a top priority for many schools and districts serving students experiencing food-insecurity. In some cases, this led schools and districts to delay needed purchases to continue feeding students.

Some programs would experience little to no change during the shutdown.

Student loan repayments will still be due in October.

  • If you have student loans, please be sure to make your payment. A government shutdown will not impact the resumption of student loan payments. The only effect it may have on borrowers is that the Department of Education may have fewer staff available to assist borrowers and answer questions. Expect to be on the phone for longer than normal times if you are calling during a shutdown or call your loan provider directly with questions about loan forgiveness and repayment plans.

Title I and IDEA funding should still be dispersed to districts on October 1.

  • We are still waiting to see the 2023 shutdown contingency plan from the U.S. Department of Education that outlines which Department functions will continue, be scaled down, or be completely paused in the event of a government shutdown. [Update as of 9/29: The Department released its updated shutdown contingency plan, which you can read here.] However, by referencing the 2021 contingency plan, we have an idea of what to expect in the unreleased plan. In all previous contingency plans, "programs using mandatory or advance appropriations, or unobligated multi-year or no-year funds from a prior year would continue to operate through a government shutdown." This includes Title I and IDEA, which are the largest funding streams from the federal government to schools.

Regarding other Department functions, we expect the contingency plan "would furlough more than 90% of its total staff for the first week." As such, most grantmaking, civil rights investigations, guidance, technical assistance, and regulatory actions would pause. For example, efforts to finalize Title IX rules and publish the draft of updated rules governing Section 504 would halt until the shutdown is over. It's possible that public access to federal websites, research, and resources like databases of evidence-based practices could be paused as well.

Only time (and Congress) will tell whether a shutdown will take place on Sunday. We will be sure to update this blog post with any new information about how you, your students, or your school may be impacted by a shutdown.

In the meantime, contact your Congressional representatives to tell them to properly fund public education through NASP's Advocacy Action Center

Update as of October 2, 2023

Congress passed a continuing resolution in the final hours of September 30 to avoid a government shutdown. The bill provides 45 days of funding, giving lawmakers until November 17 to pass either another continuing resolution or full FY 2024 appropriations. There is a possibility of another government shutdown if Congress is unable to meet this new funding deadline, and it is extremely important for school psychologists, educators, and communities to let Congress know that federal investments in education must be a priority in FY 2024!