Social Security Administration Budget Deadline Approaching: Will Shutdown Threat Impact Benefits?

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congress faces a new deadline to pass spending bills to fund the government, including the Social Security Administration (SSA), by March 8. However, even if the budget deadline passes without action, Social Security recipients will continue to receive their monthly payments.

In federal terms, Social Security benefits are considered “mandatory spending” with a dedicated, permanent funding source from payroll taxes. This means that the funding for these benefits is not affected by the federal appropriations process.

Despite this, the SSA’s administrative budget is still subject to congressional approval, with lawmakers deciding how much of Social Security’s revenue can be allocated towards operating expenses, such as processing benefit applications, office space rental, and employee salaries.

The shutdown threat stems from Congress’ inability to enact a federal budget for the 2024 fiscal year, which began on September 30. In the meantime, the government has been sustained by a series of stopgap measures, known as continuing resolutions, which maintain funding for federal agencies at 2023 spending levels.

With the latest measure signed by President Joe Biden on January 19, new deadlines of March 1 and March 8 have been set to approve 2024 budgets for some government agencies, including Social Security. In anticipation of a potential shutdown, the SSA issued a contingency plan in August, which remains in effect should the March 8 deadline pass without a budget agreement.

The plan outlines the SSA’s approach to various Social Security functions and services in the event of a shutdown. It emphasizes the continuation of critical activities for direct-service operations and the accurate and timely payment of benefits.

Additionally, the plan reassures that payroll tax revenue will still flow into the trust funds that cover retirement benefits, survivor benefits, family benefits, and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The SSA maintains legal authority to process payments even if congressional appropriations lapse.

As the deadline for passing the budget approaches, the future funding of the SSA remains uncertain, and the implications of a potential government shutdown on Social Security operations continue to be a concern for recipients and officials alike.