Government Shutdown and the Consumer

Madeleine Jones
October 2, 2013

There has been significant discussion over the last 24 hours regarding Congress’ failure to appropriate funds for the federal government to continue operations.  The majority of these conversations have not discussed the impact the shutdown will have on consumers.  Below is a highlight of some of the major federal agencies which are directly related to or responsible for protecting consumers.

The Federal Trade Commission’s (“FTC”) website is not fully operational.  Rather, consumers are directed to a landing page where they are informed they can file Freedom of Information Act Request (“FOIA”), but they will not be processed.  The FTC landing page also informs consumers they cannot file complaints or register for the Do Not Call List, a list which limits telemarketers from calling consumers.

The Department of Labor, which is responsible for occupational safety and wage and hour regulations, among others, plans on furloughing approximately 80% of its staff (16,304 total employees with only 2,954 expected to work).

The Department of Education, which, among other things, processes Pell Grants and other Federal education loans, plans on furloughing approximately 94% of its staff (4,225 total employees with only 212 expected to work).  While these grants and loans will continue to be processed, it is likely the time to process will take longer.

One Federal agency that will not be affected by the “shutdown” is the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (“CFPB”).  The CFPB was created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and is the first Federal agency which solely focuses on protecting consumers.  The CFPB is funded by the Federal Reserve, and not congress, and therefore will not be shutdown.  While the media has almost exclusively focused on the efforts to postpone or defund the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare”, in the past few weeks congressional Republicans have put forth plans to slash funding to the CFPB.  The congressional Republicans believe the CFPB “over” regulates Wall Street and other banks.