Will Social Security checks be late? How the Debt Limit Struggle Could Affect Your July Payments (2023)

WASHINGTON−Like dueling pianos, President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy simultaneously stood in front of microphones on Tuesday night − one at the White House and the other on Capitol Hill − to blame each other and their parties politicians opposed bywhy the country may run out of money to pay its billsfor the first time in US history.

While they carried out their scams, the health and financial security of millions of Americans across the country remained at risk. While getting Republicans and Democrats to agree on financial aidit's never a simple task, the side effect of the impasse is clear: US residents who depend on government payments for their wages, retirement money,food assistance, medical and other care would lose these benefits if the nation did not have the money to cover its obligations.

Tuesday's press conferences did not resolve that problem. They did little more than prove that Biden, McCarthy and other congressional leaders made little progress duringyour meeting in the Oval Officethat afternoon. McCarthy said there had been no movement towards a solution and the only real sign of progress was that they met for the first time in 97 days.

They came together to speed up negotiations and prevent the nation from defaulting on its obligations - something that has never happened in America, but could happen this year as early as June 1st.according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

The meeting:Biden and McCarthy fail to reach agreement on debt ceiling at Oval Office meeting as default looms

Social Security payments at risk in July

Will Social Security checks be late? How the Debt Limit Struggle Could Affect Your July Payments (1)

If the country's top leaders fail to reach an agreement to raise the country's debt limit and their predictions come true, it would lead to catastrophic and devastating effects across the country, Yellen, Treasury secretaries before her and numerous economists agree.

One of the biggest impacts would beSocial Security. The program, which millions of Americans depend on to earn money in retirement, is often seen by politicians as the untouchable vanguard of government aid, but it has been the subject of a heated debate between Republicans and Democrats in the 118th Congress. If the debt ceiling is not raised by the projected June default date, July Social Security benefits will be at risk.

With three weeks to go until June 1 - during which both chambers of Congress will be in session for just 10 days - Yellen has been stressing the "economic calamity" that could result without an increase in the debt limit.

"Whether it's defaults on interest payments due on debt or payments due to Social Security recipients or to Medicare providers, we simply wouldn't have enough money to meet all of our obligations," she said Sunday inABC's "This Week"."And it is widely accepted that financial and economic chaos would ensue."

What to know:Planning retirement? 3 hard Social Security truths to consider.

Are Social Security benefits really at risk in case of default?

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Some economists have said that Social Security paymentscan be delayed or stopped at most, and some said they would not be affected.

Despite some talk on Capitol Hill that the government could or would somehow prioritize default payments for seniors and veterans to be served, Yellen said there is no plan to do so.

Furthermore, as the government has never failed to fulfill its obligations, there is no clear roadmap for what would happen and US systems have not been operationally tested in such a scenario.

During a March 22 Senate appropriations hearing, Yellen said her job as Treasury Secretary is to make sure all bills are paid, not to decide which bills are more important than others.

"Prioritization is standard under another name," she said. "Not paying any of our bills is bad debt. When you think of the pain it would cause Social Security recipients, food stamp recipients, the vendors who provided services, the government that has its own payrolls to meet, to being told that they are not going to be paid, the government is not going to honor these bills. That's a default."

The government pays millions of bills a day and its payment systems are set up to pay all government bills when due. "They're not set up to split payments into different types generally," Yellen said.

"For many agencies, payments of all different types are mixed up in ways that can't be broken down," she added.

Survey:As Social Security and Medicare face deficits, most Americans oppose cutting their benefits

When will Biden and McCarthy meet again over the debt ceiling?

Will Social Security checks be late? How the Debt Limit Struggle Could Affect Your July Payments (3)

Top congressional aides will continue to meet with White House officials throughout the week, and Biden and McCarthy are expected to meet again on Friday.

Republicans refuseto raise the debt ceiling without federal spending cuts in return.Democrats saythe country's debt limit must be raised without conditions and federal spending negotiations must take place separately.

Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers representing the states with the most Social Security recipients, such as McCarthy's home state of California, are raising concerns and criticizing the GOP proposal passed April 26 that would raise the debt ceiling while cut trillions in federal spending.

What Democrats Are Saying to USA TODAY

Will Social Security checks be late? How the Debt Limit Struggle Could Affect Your July Payments (4)

About 66 million Americans receive Social Security benefits,federal data show. Payments are made not only to people of retirement age, but also to millions of children and other people with severe disabilities.

McCarthy's home state of California has the highest number of Social Security recipients in the country, with more than 6 million residents receiving the benefit, according to federal data. It is also the state with the largest population. More than 15 million people there receive Medicaid and about 4.5 million receive Medicare - more than any other state.

Dep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., told USA TODAY that Republicans are using a potential default as leverage to try to force cuts "its members would never vote for independent bills because of the public backlash they would face."

Cuts to critical programs like food assistance, Medicaid and others "would be devastating for people in my district and across the country who depend on these programs for their livelihoods," he said. "We have to pay our bills first and then we can rationally discuss deficit reduction."

Impact:'I Have Nothing in My Fridge': The GOP's Debt Ceiling Plan Would Cut SNAP Benefits

Nearly 3 million Pennsylvanians receive Social Security benefits. Nearly 3 million are on Medicare and nearly 4 million are on Medicaid, according to federal data.

"If the debt ceiling is not raised in time, Social Security and Medicare payments will be delayed. Veterans benefits will also be affected. MAGA Republicans are endangering the livelihoods of seniors and veterans with their shenanigans," the Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., told USA TODAY. He is the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee.

Another Pennsylvania Democrat, Senator Bob Casey, told USA TODAY in a statement: "Make no mistake: House Republicans are trying to take away health care for seniors, children and people with disabilities. It will come at the cost of ripping millions of Pennsylvanians out of health coverage. I will fight to protect Medicaid any way it takes."

In Illinois, more than 2 million people receive Social Security. More than 3 million receive Medicaid and more than 2 million receive Medicare.

Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., described during plenary remarks how a GOP debt plan would also affect other programs in Illinois: “The Republican proposal would force 13,000 children in our state to miss out on daycare. and preschool. It would withdraw food assistance from 55,000 women, babies and children. Does that make any sense? And that would threaten the health care of more than 186,000 veterans in Illinois. Fifty thousand seniors would lose their meals on wheels in my state.”

What Republicans Are Saying to USA TODAY

Will Social Security checks be late? How the Debt Limit Struggle Could Affect Your July Payments (5)

McCarthy said on Tuesday that it was "a lie" thatGOP proposal would cut veterans' care, and he and other Republicans have recently blamed Biden and the Democrats for any Social Security risks. He maintained Tuesday that House Republicans "are the only ones in Washington who have passed a responsible increase in the debt limit that prevents default."

That sentiment was echoed by other Republicans on the Hill last week.

"The Biden administration might want to look in the mirror and realize they are the ones threatening a default that would jeopardize these programs. Biden has the House Republicans solution in front of him - the only bill passed that takes a default off the table and protects Social Security -- but he'd rather bankrupt our nation than negotiate," the office of House Majority Leader Tom Emmer told USA TODAY.

Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., told USA TODAY in a statement, “President Biden has avoided debt ceiling negotiations for over 90 days — his delaying tactics put our superiors directly in danger. Republicans have worked diligently to pass a plan that addresses our spending crisis and debt limit, the President needs to take our plan seriously.”

Some Republican senators say they want to see more negotiations.

"I hope the president negotiates. He sold himself to the American people as a negotiator. So what is negotiation? You have to give and take," Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., told USA TODAY before Biden convened up with congressional leaders.

Capito said he hoped the meeting with the president would be more than a photo op. "It better be noun," she said. "He better come back with items he thinks he could live with and that the House would approve."

Senator Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said he expected a compromise.

"We certainly want to raise the debt ceiling. At the same time, we would like to address the overspending and debt burden facing the country, so let's address both," he said.

A deeper look:Joe Biden corners Republicans on Social Security and Medicare with eye on 2024

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