States taking measures as shutdown cuts off funds to vital programs
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.
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.