What happens in South Carolina if the federal government shuts down? Here’s what to expect

Calls for a budget deal to be reached in Congress ahead of an impending federal government shutdown are coming from across the nation, but inside South Carolina, too.

What would happen for South Carolinians if the government does shut down? Here’s what you need to know.

Congress must pass funding legislation before this Sunday, Oct. 1, to avoid a government shutdown, which would mean nonessential federal government agencies would have to stop all spending operations. Some federal employees would be furloughed, and some — such as military personnel — would have to continue working without pay, though they would be back-paid once a government spending plan is passed.

If your employer depends on federal funds and you are a part of the nonessential agencies, you could be impacted. These nonessential agencies include the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety inspections, Environmental Protection Agency inspections and disaster relief by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Federally funded programs such as the nation’s food aid, including WIC benefits, and Head Start education programs for preschoolers would also lose funding.

More than 86,000 people in South Carolina participated in the WIC supplemental nutrition funding program for women, infants and children in fiscal year 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Money will stop being added to WIC purchasing cards if the government shuts down. The timeline for how quickly this would occur is unclear, but reports suggest the program’s contingency funding could run out within a few days. Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits are expected to be able to continue for several weeks.

The federal Head Start program funds early education for some 12,000 children across South Carolina, according to the National Head Start Association. It is unclear if Head Start-funded centers will close right away, or shut down over time.

National parks also will also be affected: Some will completely close, while others won’t have staff to run them. It’s not clear yet how that will specifically affect South Carolina’s national parks sites, including Congaree National Park near Columbia. Because Congaree has free, open gates, it’s likely the park will remain open to visitors but unstaffed, and it’s unclear whether there will be any restrictions in place. The Department of Interior has said a majority of national parks will be completely closed to public access, and areas that are accessible to the public near them will face significantly reduced visitor services.

Social security recipients will continue to receive checks and Medicare benefits will continue. Student loan payments will continue to be due, but there may be delays in loans, according to Politico.

South Carolina is home to more than 33,000 active military personnel, who will go unpaid but continue to be on duty during the shutdown, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Military veterans will continue to receive benefits, and most Veterans Affairs employees will continue working as usual, either because their pay is not dependent on annual appropriations or because they are exempt from furlough, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs Contingency Plan. South Carolina is home to an estimated nearly 400,000 veterans.

Post offices and postal services will continue to operate as usual. Most passport and visa processing operations will continue as well, according to the U.S. State Department. However, passport agencies located inside a government building that will be affected by the funding lapse may not be able to operate, the State Department says.

If you’ve got travel plans, you’ll still be able to fly in or out of a South Carolina airport, though you might experience some slowdowns. Transportation Security Administration agents and air traffic controllers will continue to work, but without pay.

South Carolina Democratic U.S. Rep. James Clyburn, in a virtual press briefing Thursday, said he is frustrated with House Republicans who are focusing on trying to impeach President Joe Biden instead of pushing to reach a deal to fund the government.

“There is no reason for us to be moving forward with any type of impeachment of President Joe Biden,” Clyburn said. “These people are bullies. These people are not here to make headway on the behalf of the American people. They’re seeking headlines.”

“I would hope we can get something passed and not disrupt the lives of the people of South Carolina,” Clyburn said. “Nobody has to tell me what this would do to South Carolina, what it would do to our farmers, what it would do to our military families, what it will do to our children, our senior citizens.”

There is nothing Congress can necessarily do to prevent the impacts of a government shutdown other than work to make a deal, Clyburn added.

“How many of our first responders are being paid by federal funds? If that goes away, we would be asking them to work without pay,” Clyburn said.

He also said because South Carolina’s No. 1 industry is tourism, with more than a million people coming to the state each year for attractions including parks, restaurants and wildlife, the shutdown poses threats to the state economy as well.

“We now have three national parks in South Carolina, and that will be disrupted and people’s habits change because of something like this. We may not ever get those people back,” Clyburn said.

Clyburn’s congressional colleague Rep. Nancy Mace, R-Daniel Island, said Friday that she planned to refuse her paycheck during the government shutdown, though she, like other federal workers, would be back-paid after a spending deal is reached.

“We were sent here to work on behalf of the American people, and if we can’t do our job and pass regular order spending bills like we are tasked in the constitution, then we don’t deserve a dime,” Mace said.

The government will shut down at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1, if lawmakers do not pass a resolution by Saturday.

Clyburn said he believes American people are growing weary of the contentiousness of the few people who are “hell bent on the floor of the House of Representatives.”