The Arc logo

Why the Debt Ceiling Matters and How You Can Help

The United States could hit the debt ceiling as early as June 1.

Right now, Congress and the President must decide what to do about the debt ceiling.

These decisions could have a BIG impact on people with disabilities and their families.

What is the debt ceiling?

The federal government regularly borrows money to pay for things.

The debt ceiling is the largest amount of money the federal government can borrow at one time. It can’t borrow more than the debt ceiling allows.

When the government gets close to hitting the debt ceiling, Congress must decide whether to:

  • Raise the debt ceiling, so the government can borrow more money to pay for things, or
  • Do nothing and fail to pay for the things it promised to do.

So far, Congress has always raised the debt ceiling.

This has happened 78 times since 1960.

Congress typically raises the debt ceiling high enough to last only a short time, from a few months to a few years.

What is happening with the debt ceiling debates now?

On April 26, the House of Representatives passed a bill to raise the debt ceiling.

It agreed to raise the debt ceiling for one year in exchange for over $3.6 trillion in budget cuts over 10 years.

The bill also adds radical work rules for all Medicaid enrollees who are ages 19 to 55.

These work rules would likely result in millions of people who rely on Medicaid getting kicked off the program.

The bill says that Medicaid enrollees would have to work at least 80 hours a month.

This includes enrollees who:

  • Get Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid
  • Have Medicaid waivers for home and community-based services

There would be only one way for people with disabilities enrolled in Medicaid to get out of this work requirement.

They would have to get a note from a doctor or medical professional saying they are “physically or mentally unfit” to work.

This adds a lot of red tape for people with disabilities and their families.

It also fails to understand that people with disabilities can and do want to work.

Medicaid’s rules related to work, savings, and disability are already complicated enough.

Adding more red tape will hurt people with disabilities and their families who rely on Medicaid.

What happens if Congress decides not to raise the debt ceiling?

If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling, the federal government may not be able to pay for important things like:

  • Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security
  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Our military and the salaries of military service members
  • Tax refunds
  • And many more programs and services

The economy and stock market could also have trouble. It may cost people even more money to get a loan, and people could lose their jobs.

Everyone may struggle if Congress does not increase the debt ceiling.

But people with disabilities who depend on government services may be hurt more if the programs and services they need stop.

What You Can Do

Congress and the President can agree to raise the debt ceiling without cutting Medicaid or other essential programs.

Contact your members of Congress today and tell them to keep Medicaid out of debt ceiling negotiations.