Government Shutdown Slow To Affect State Agencies
October 3, 2013
For now, Florida’s state agencies appear to be avoiding the worst of the partial shutdown that has caused a good deal of the federal government to grind to a halt.
Of course, the state budget passed months ago by lawmakers won’t change because of the disagreement between congressional Republicans, who want to tie continuing funding for the federal government to changes in the national health-care law, and President Barack Obama, who rejects that connection.
But that state spending plan draws more than 35 percent of its funding from federal sources, some of which could be imperiled if the shutdown drags on. For now, though, state agencies appear to be situated to ride out a short closing.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Scott didn’t directly respond to a question about whether his office has a list of state programs that could be affected by a shutdown, but said the state is keeping an eye on the situation.
“We are working closely with our agencies to monitor any potential state impact,” spokeswoman Jackie Schutz wrote in an email.
Some state services aren’t affected at all. Secretary of State Ken Detzner used reports that federal historic sites and parks were closing to point out that Florida’s remain open.
“While politicians in Washington, D.C., sort out the budget crisis, the Florida Department of State employees continue to offer quality customer care to the public at our facilities,” he said in a statement issued by his office.
Other agencies are having to watch Washington.
For example, the Department of Children and Families has been told by federal authorities that nutrition programs, like food stamps, will be funded until the end of the month, department spokeswoman Alexis Lambert said. And Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, which helps provide cash for low-income Floridians, won’t be affected.
“If funding lapses, we are committed to doing all we can to work with the states, the District of Columbia (DC), territories, and tribes to ensure that vulnerable families and children have access to needed benefits and services during this period,” wrote former Florida official George Sheldon, an acting assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in a letter to state officials.
Other programs also largely appear safe, according to a report from Federal Funds Information for States, a Washington, D.C.-based group. Medicaid, some transportation spending and some education programs will keep money flowing to the state.
But some transportation projects could lack the needed checks for environmental or legal impacts, and state or local governments won’t get reimbursed for work on some projects, the report says. Some Head Start programs will likely be forced to shutter themselves until a deal is struck.
And the effects could grow worse as time passes. The U.S. Department of Education warned in its contingency plan for a shutdown, dated Sept. 27, that funding could become more scarce if the showdown in Washington continues.
“A protracted delay in department obligations and payments beyond one week would severely curtail the cash flow to school districts, colleges and universities, and vocational rehabilitation agencies that depend on the department’s funds to support their services,” the plan said.
by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida