What a government shutdown could mean in Georgia

With no agreement on the table right now that could gain approval in both the Republican-led U.S. House and Democratic-controlled Senate, it appears that government funding will run out Saturday.

And with more than 140,000 military and civilian federal employees in Georgia, millions of residents relying on federal programs and $18 billion worth of federal funding paying for services in the state budget, Georgians could feel an impact, particularly if the shutdown drags on for a while.

Unlike previous years when Congress was able to pass legislation to fund certain federal agencies prior to a shutdown, this iteration could be much broader. Barring an eleventh-hour resolution, which appears unlikely, nonessential workers at most government agencies will be sent home starting Monday. And if the shutdown persists, people who rely on financial assistance and services from the government could see those offerings dwindle to nothing.

The most recent federal shutdown started in late 2018 and ended in January 2019, lasting 34 days and becoming the longest in history. It affected only some government agencies: the one looming now would affect all.

That includes the state’s 12 military bases and installations. There are roughly 70,000 active-duty personnel in Georgia, according to Governing magazine.

Members of the armed forces are likely to be deemed essential, meaning they will continue to come to work but won’t be paid during the shutdown. Same goes for air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration workers manning the security lines at airports. Officers working for law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration would also remain at their posts, and so would medical researchers at organizations such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, civilian employees and contractors could be furloughed across the government system. The CDC says nearly 60% of its staff could be sent home with remaining workers tasked with keeping essential functions operating.

Reductions in other agencies could affect everything from making it harder and a longer process to obtain passports to longer wait times when calling customer service lines for the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Internal Revenue Service.

The president and members of Congress will continue to work and get paid.

Access to the state’s 11 national parks could also become limited during a shutdown. While some areas may remain open to the public, the availability of amenities, tours and even the rangers on duty could be limited. Doors will likely be locked at enclosed buildings such as the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Freedom Hall at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park.

Social Security and veterans’ disability checks should not be affected by the shutdown. As long as the matter is resolved within a few weeks, funding for federal courts and safety-net programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and food assistance also should be OK.

But other programs could see changes fairly quickly. For example, the White House estimated that nearly 7 million low-income people who rely on the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, also known as WIC, could lose funds to purchase select foods and receive vouchers for vegetables and fruit. That includes about 221,000 in Georgia, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the program may only be able to keep going a few days in a shutdown.

The chiefs of Georgia’s budget, administrative services and accounting offices wrote department heads last week saying that some state employees paid through federal funding may be furloughed during the shutdown. That could slow some state services if the shutdown drags on.

Also, hiring could slow if federal workers who administer employment verification programs are also furloughed.

About $18 billion of what the state will spend on services this year — from education and research to law enforcement and public health care programs — comes from the federal government. The state fiscal year began July 1, and much of the federal money has already been allotted.

Thousands of state employees have their salaries paid at least partially through federal grants and other spending. But it’s unclear how many of them will be directly affected by the shutdown and how many could be furloughed.

Georgia had a massive surplus for the past fiscal year and has billions in reserve, but it won’t be giving agencies money to make up for the temporary loss of federal funding.

“The state will not advance allotments to offset reduced federal cash flow, and your agency should not assume funds expended for federal activities conducted during the shutdown will be reimbursed by the state or the federal government once the budget is enacted,” the memo to agency heads said.

State and local officials from agencies such as MARTA and the Georgia Department of Transportation said a short shutdown will have minimal impact on the government. But that could change over weeks or months.

A spokesman for Georgia Tech said the university receives about $85 million per month in federal funding for research activities. “If there is a prolonged federal government shutdown, we would need to slow down some research, reduce our subcontracting, and potentially delay some projects or activities,” the spokesman said. “We are proactively planning in the event a federal shutdown occurs.”

While some K-12 public education programs are funded by the federal government, the impact on schools in Georgia should be “minimal,” according to the Georgia Department of Education. The department is able to continue using previously appropriated federal funds, including COVID-19 relief money. A department spokeswoman said school meal programs will continue to operate.

Veterans of state government have been through this exercise many times before, and they have been planning for a possible shutdown for weeks.

“As we have done in the past, my office is monitoring the federal budget process currently unfolding on Capitol Hill and ensuring that our state-level agencies are prepared in the case of a shutdown of the federal government,” said Rick Dunn, Gov. Brian Kemp’s budget director.

Staff writers David Wickert, David Aaro, Vanessa McCray and Ty Tagami contributed to this article.


  • Number of federal civilian workers in Georgia as of March 2023: 77,034
  • Number of active-duty military as of September 2021: 69,834
  • Number of military bases and installations: 12
  • Number of national parks: 11
  • Amount of state government spending that comes from the federal government: $18 billion

Sources: Governing Magazine, Congressional Research Service, National Parks Service, Department of Defense