States tak­ing mea­sures as shut­down cuts off funds to vi­tal pro­grams

Lodi News-Sentinel - - NATION - By Matt Vasilogam­bros

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s warn­ing that the par­tial fed­eral gov­ern­ment shut­down could last “for months or even years” has states, cities and busi­nesses in­creas­ingly ner­vous.

States de­pend on fed­eral money to pay for food stamps, wel­fare and pro­grams such as the Child Care and De­vel­op­ment Fund Plan, the Na­tional Flood In­sur­ance Pro­gram and the Land and Wa­ter Con­ser­va­tion Fund, which pro­vides match­ing grants for state and lo­cal parks and recre­ation projects.

Mar­cia Howard, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the non­profit Fed­eral Funds In­for­ma­tion for States, said states have enough left­over fed­eral dol­lars, plus money of their own, to keep key pro­grams go­ing for sev­eral weeks — but any pe­riod longer than that would cre­ate sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems. The long­est pre­vi­ous shut­down was for 21 days, in 1995-1996.

“We don’t know how it goes,” Howard said. “We don’t know how it gets re­solved. And states are as cu­ri­ous as ev­ery­one else.”

In Michi­gan, for ex­am­ple, $22 bil­lion of the $57 bil­lion state bud­get comes from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. A spokesman for the Michi­gan State Bud­get Of­fice, Kurt Weiss, said the state wouldn’t face sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges un­til 45 days have elapsed. But the day that marks the end of that pe­riod, Feb. 5, is fast ap­proach­ing.

“That’s when we push the panic but­ton,” Weiss said. “We are start­ing to get more con­cerned. We need to start tak­ing this se­ri­ously.”

Weiss’ of­fice re­cently asked the heads of state agen­cies to as­sess how long they can re­main open with­out fed­eral dol­lars and which of their pro­grams are most es­sen­tial. Their re­sponses are due Fri­day.

A spokes­woman for the state De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment, Jen­nifer Holton, said her de­part­ment is re-eval­u­at­ing its bud­get ahead of the dead­line, but would not com­ment on spe­cific pro­grams.

Min­nesota also is try­ing to get a han­dle on how long its state agen­cies can op­er­ate with­out fed­eral dol­lars. My­ron Frans, the com­mis­sioner of Min­nesota Man­age­ment and Bud­get, said his state has con­tin­gency plans for short­term shut­downs that last for days, but not months.

“Those peo­ple need that money,” Frans said of the Min­nesotans who de­pend on fed­er­ally funded pro­grams. “What do we do? How do we plan to help these peo­ple when pay­ments get cut off ?

“We need to ac­cept the fact that this shut­down is go­ing to last a long time.”

The fed­eral Sup­ple­men­tal Nu­tri­tion As­sis­tance Pro­gram (SNAP), bet­ter known as food stamps, is funded through the month. If the shut­down lasts longer, the ben­e­fit might be cut off, af­fect­ing about 40 mil­lion peo­ple. The Spe­cial Sup­ple­men­tal Nu­tri­tion Pro­gram for Women, In­fants and Chil­dren, known as WIC, al­ready ran out of money.

That has New Jersey of­fi­cials con­cerned. A spokesman for the state De­part­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices, Tom Hester, said if the shut­down lasts past Jan­uary, it could af­fect 730,000 food stamp re­cip­i­ents and 12,600 Tem­po­rary As­sis­tance for Needy Fam­i­lies (TANF) re­cip­i­ents in New Jersey.

OLIVIER DOULIERY/ABACA PRESS

On the 20th day of a par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down, fur­loughed fed­eral work­ers, con­trac­tors and union rep­re­sen­ta­tives gath­ered be­fore march­ing to the White House to de­mand that Pres­i­dent Trump re­open the gov­ern­ment on Thurs­day in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

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