PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The U.S. reached its debt ceiling on Thursday, forcing the Treasury Department to start taking “extraordinary measures” to avoid a catastrophic default.

The nation’s debt hit more than $31.4 trillion, which passes the threshold set by Congress when it raised the nation’s borrowing limit more than a year ago.

The debt ceiling is the total amount of money the U.S. can borrow to meet its legal obligations, including social security and medicare benefits.

“I respectfully urge Congress to act promptly to protect the full faith and credit of the United States,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote in a letter to congressional leaders.

It’s unclear how long the Treasury Department will be able to use measures to prevent a default, but Yellen said she doesn’t anticipate Americans will feel the effects before June.

Congressman Seth Magaziner said a lot of people will feel the pain if the U.S. defaults.

“If the country were to default on its obligations, what would happen? Number 1: Interest rates would spike. If you think interest rates are high now, mortgage rates, lines of credit, those interest rates would go up significantly higher if there were to be a default,” Magaziner said.

Locally, Magaziner said that could impact small businesses with a line of credit, retirees looking to sell homes, or young families looking to buy homes.

The debt limit also poses several risks to those on Social Security and Medicare. Without a breakthrough in Congress, the government may not be able to send out monthly checks.

It would also threaten financial markets and anyone with a 401(k) retirement account.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.