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Best resources for military families if government shuts down

A government shutdown can be daunting for military families. Here's everything you need to know about your pay, healthcare and other resources.
Tessa Robinson Avatar
US Capitol Building
Soldiers walk toward US Capitol building

As we’re inching closer to a government shutdown, more and more military families are starting to get nervous that Congress will not pass a budget by the deadline of 12:01 am ET, Saturday, November 18. It feels like we were just here, doesn’t it? Didn’t we just have a government shutdown? The last government shutdown was from December 22, 2018, to January 25, 2019, and lasted 35 days — the longest in four decades. Personally, I was furloughed, and while I loved the extra time at home with my kids, the overwhelming sense of dread was exhausting. When will I go back to work? When will I get paid? When will Congress get their act together so we can do things like feed our families – you know, the basics. The good news about having just had a shutdown not that long ago: Service members and their families are in a much better position to receive help.

Here are the best resources for military families if the government shuts down:

Pay

The most pressing question for everyone is: Will I get paid during a government shutdown? The answer: By the government, no. But before you panic, let’s look at the options.

USAA

USAA is offering impacted members a one-time, no-interest loan equal to the amount of your net pay, from $500 to $6,000, designed to help with an affected payment disruption. The loan has an annual percentage rate of 0% and must be repaid within three months of funding. Your payments will be split into two equal installments, with the first payment due in about 60 days and the second due in about 90 days. Additionally, they’re offering payment assistance on insurance, and payment extensions on other products (consumer loans, credit cards, home equity line of credit). How do I get my USAA loan for the government shutdown? Visit their website here.

Navy Federal Credit Union

Navy Federal Credit Union will again offer a paycheck assistance program. Navy Federal stands ready to offer paycheck assistance to eligible members should funding not extended beyond November 17 and a government shutdown occurs. 

This program will be available to military servicemembers, Federal government employees and contractors who are paid directly by the Federal government whose pay will be affected by the shutdown, and have direct deposit set up with Navy Federal for their paycheck.

“Many of our members may again be facing uncertainty about the status of their paychecks. This important program aligns with our core values, and we will be there to support our members,” said Pete Amstutz, senior vice president of savings and membership at Navy Federal.  

For members impacted by the shutdown who do not meet the eligibility requirements, our member service representatives may be able to offer alternative services for financial relief. How do I get my NavyFed loan in the event of a shutdown? According to their website, Navy Federal will deposit the loan amount you are eligible for into the account(s) in which your most recent direct deposit of pay was processed. If you enrolled before your pay date, the loan will be disbursed on your regular pay date.

What if I don’t have NavyFed or USAA?

Well, you should sign up at some point for these very reasons (they offer pay when Congress can’t agree), but I know that’s not particularly helpful right now – sorry. If you don’t have USAA or NavyFed, let’s look at some other financial resources.

Navy/Marine Corps

Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) stands ready to help meet the immediate needs of active and retired Sailors, Marines and their families impacted by the impending government shutdown. NMCRS offices will be open normal hours to assist those families who are experiencing immediate needs related to loss of income from the shutdown.

Army

Air Force Aid Society and Army Emergency Relief are available to T10 Soldiers and Airmen. All ANG Guard members and Reservists with emergency needs are eligible for Air Force Aid Society assistance during a government shutdown. National Guard Military Family Readiness Staff may have additional community resources or grant/loan opportunities. Please reach out to the Soldier or Airman and Family Readiness staff in your location for more information.

Air Force/Space Force

AFAS assistance will be available to assist with your emergency financial needs such as food, gas, and other essentials. In order to help the maximum number of Airmen/Guardians possible, it is not reasonable to expect the Society to replace your total lost pay.

Coast Guard

Once a pay period has been missed, Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA) will provide financial assistance in the form of an interest-free loan equivalent to one-month’s Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) based on the military member’s paygrade and region. GS civilian employees will be entitled to E-7 BAH, while Non-Appropriated Fund and Wage Grade (NAF/WG) employees will be entitled to E-5 military BAH.

What about health benefits? Can I use Tricare during a shutdown?

The Defense Health Agency has authorized its TRICARE contractors to continue delivering health care to its 9.4 million beneficiaries. TRICARE beneficiaries seeking medical care from private providers should feel no significant effects. Care at military hospitals and clinics would remain largely unaffected. The TRICARE website includes current information about the impact of the shutdown on TRICARE health plans and military hospitals and clinics.

What about food? Are there military food pantries?

A sailor carries a box of food to a family's car during a food pantry. Food pantries are available in the event of a government shutdown.
St. Marys, Ga. (March 7, 2022) Machinist’s Mate 2nd Class Monyett Spates carries a box of food to a family’s car during a mobile food pantry held by Camden County and America’s Second Harvest.

Yes, there are so many food pantries available to military families (during and outside of a government shutdown). They don’t have to be military-specific for you to visit. With so many military families experiencing food insecurity, you should feel NO SHAME in getting assistance from a food pantry – your family’s health has to come first. Find a food pantry near you through AmpleHarvest.org.

The stress of not being paid can be overwhelming, but these are the best resources for military families in the event of a government shutdown. Take care of yourself, take care of your family and know you’re not alone. If you’re struggling with your mental health, call *988 at any time. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) offers 24/7 call, text and chat access to trained crisis counselors who can help people experiencing suicidal, substance use, and/or mental health crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress. People can also dial 988 if they are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.

Hang in there – you got this.