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The Defense Department said its operations supporting Ukraine in the war with Russia are exempt from a potential federal government shutdown, meaning training of troops and shipments of military equipment will continue.
Hundreds of thousands of federal workers in the U.S. may be furloughed, leading to slowdowns of some federal services for Americans.
But many essential services, such as law enforcement, air traffic control and food stamps will continue.
The federal government could shut down if Congress can’t reach an agreement to fund it by Sept. 30, but the Defense Department said its operations supporting Ukraine in its war with Russia won’t be greatly affected.
That has angered some conservatives, who say this shows the Biden administration is prioritizing Ukrainians over Americans.
"None of these programs are going to continue if we have a government shutdown," said a man in a Sept. 22 Instagram video, pointing to a screenshot of an X post that listed funding amounts for food stamps, transportation, education, justice, environmental protection and homelessness.
He then pointed to a mention of billions of dollars going to aid Ukraine.
"This Ukraine nonsense is going to continue even if the government shuts down," he said. "This is our priority. American citizens aren’t."
This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)
U.S. military training of Ukrainian troops and shipments of equipment would continue during a government shutdown, because that work doesn’t hinge on new funding from Congress, Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh said in a Sept. 25 news conference. However, furloughs of military civilian personnel could slow training and distribution of equipment, Singh said.
The Defense Department did not return a PolitiFact request for comment. Chris Sherwood, a department spokesperson, told several news outlets that the training operation "is an excepted activity under a government lapse in appropriations," pointing to the Pentagon’s contingency plan in the event of a shutdown.
Does continued U.S. operational support for Ukraine prevent support for food stamps, transportation, education, justice, environmental protection and homelessness?
That’s an oversimplification. A look at contingency plans for federal agencies shows that although many federal workers will be furloughed and services could be slowed by a shutdown, many essential activities will continue, depending on the length of the shutdown.
Here’s what we found:
The U.S. Department of Agriculture runs the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is sometimes called "food stamps" and serves nearly 42 million Americans.
A department spokesperson said SNAP participants will continue receiving nutrition assistance through October.
A separate program called WIC — the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children — provides federal grants to states for low-income pregnant and postpartum women and children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk.
A shutdown risks the loss of WIC assistance for nearly 7 million people, the USDA spokesperson said, as there is likely not enough funding to support normal WIC operations beyond a few days. However, some states may have carryover funds or can use their own state funds, the spokesperson said.
Passengers check in at Denver International Airport Sept. 1, 2023, in Denver. Air traffic controllers and security workers will work without pay during a government shutdown. (AP)
About 17,000 of the Transportation Department’s roughly 45,000 employees would be furloughed if the government shuts down, according to a department contingency plan. The vast majority of the exempted workers are deemed necessary to protect life and property.
"A government shutdown would undermine the safety and well-being of every American family," Buttigieg wrote in the post.
Buttigieg said in the interview that shutting down the government would include shutting down air traffic control training when more staffing is needed.
The air traffic controllers would continue to work during a shutdown but wouldn’t get paid until the government is funded, he said. "They’re under enough stress as it is doing that job, without having to come into work with the added stress of not receiving a paycheck."
Buttigieg said in the full interview that the shutdown could affect air passengers by slowing the growth of the department’s workforce, the modernization of aviation technology and the department’s work on rules to get airlines to refund passengers for delays.
In past shutdowns, unpaid security screeners and air traffic controllers had higher absentee rates, leading to longer waits for travelers at airports.
Education Department programs with mandatory funding, such as Pell Grants and Federal Direct Student Loans, can make obligations and payments during a shutdown, according to a September 2021 contingency plan, the latest one listed on a White House website for agency plans. The Education Department would pause most grantmaking, civil rights complaint investigations and other activities.
The nation’s K-12 schools are mostly funded by state and local governments, but the White House said in a Sept. 20 statement that 10,000 children would immediately lose access to Head Start programs, which support eligible kids up to age 5. Politico reported that federally funded free and reduced-price school lunch programs could be paused.
According to a 2021 Justice Department contingency plan, about 85% of the department’s workers would not be furloughed during a shutdown. The vast majority of those were "employees necessary to protect life and property."
The high percentage of exempted employees is because the department consists of 40 branches with national security, law enforcement and criminal justice system responsibilities, the plan said.
An Environmental Protection Agency contingency plan from September 2021 said 7% of the agency’s more than 14,000 workers would be required to work in the event of a shutdown.
Work that would continue includes the protection of EPA land and property, criminal investigations and law enforcement, emergency and disaster assistance and cleanup response after environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters.
Activities that could stop might include civil enforcement inspections and issuance of some new grants, permits, regulations and policies.
The White House said most EPA-led inspections at hazardous waste sites and drinking water and chemical facilities would stop during a shutdown.
A Department of Housing and Urban Development spokesperson said the agency is complying with its contingency plan, which all federal departments are required to update every two years.
Most HUD staff will be sent home during a shutdown, but according to a contingency plan, monthly housing subsidy programs "will continue to operate for as long as the funding remains available." They can be at risk of running out, the plan shows, depending on the length of the shutdown.
Annual grant programs, the plan said, "including those that provide for emergency housing for the homeless and persons living with HIV/AIDS" will "continue to operate in states and local communities across the country when such grant funding has already been obligated."
An Instagram post claimed that although U.S. support of Ukraine will continue during a government shutdown, programs in the U.S. for food stamps, transportation, education, justice, environmental protection and homelessness will not.
The training of Ukrainian troops and the shipment of equipment will continue, because that does not hinge on new funding from Congress.
If the federal government enters a shutdown, it will be because Congress did not provide new funding to continue running programs in the new fiscal year that begins in October.
A shutdown would affect the pay of thousands of federal workers and would likely hinder many services to Americans. Still, many essential services involving the agencies or programs mentioned in the post will continue — as long as there’s rollover funding or if states cover the costs.
For example, food stamps recipients will continue receiving services through October. Law enforcement, air traffic control and emergency response to environmental disasters would continue. Housing subsidies will continue as long as they are funded and annual grant programs already funded to help the homeless will continue.
We rate the claim Half True.
Spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, email exchange, Sept, 25, 2023
U.S. Department of Agriculture SNAP data tables, accessed Sept. 25, 2023
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, X post sharing interview on CNN, Sept. 24, 2023
CNN, Buttigieg: 'House Republicans need to come to their senses', Sept. 24, 2023
Politico, Pentagon exempts Ukraine operations from potential government shutdown, Sept. 21, 2023
Politico, Here’s what happens when the government shuts down, Sept. 23, 2023
PolitiFact, Here we go again: what to know about government shutdowns, Sept. 20, 2023
Military.com, Pentagon Says Ukraine Training, Weapons Shipments Will Continue Despite Any Government Shutdown, Sept. 22, 2023
White House Office of Management and Budget, Agency Contingency Plans, accessed Sept. 25, 2023
The White House, Extreme House Republicans’ Chaos Is Marching Us Toward a Government Shutdown, Sept. 20, 2023
U.S. Department of Defense, Contingency plan guidance for continuation of essential operations in the absence of available appropriations, August 2023
Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh, U.S. Department of Defense, news briefing, Sept. 25, 2023
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD Contingency Plan for Possible Lapse in Appropriations 2023, accessed Sept. 25, 2023
U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice FY 2022 Contingency Plan , Sept. 24, 2021
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Agency contingency plan for shutdown, September 29, 2021
U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Education Contingency Plan for Lapse in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Appropriations, Sept. 27, 2021
U.S. Department of Transportation, Plans for Operations During a Lapse in Annual Appropriations And/or Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Plans by Operating Administration, Aug. 23, 2023
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Lapse in Funding Plans, accessed Sept. 25, 2023
U.S. Department of Defense, Ukrainian pilots could be flying F-16s in three months, Air National Guard head says, Aug. 24, 2023
U.S. Department of Defense, Nations Step Up With New Ukraine Military Assistance, June 15, 2023
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