LANSING – The state is currently assessing how the partial federal government shutdown will affect services after February 5 as there appears a “total lack of progress” toward re-opening the government, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer has joined a call for the President Donald Trump administration to allow federal employees working without pay to access unemployment benefits.
The State Budget Office has previously determined no impacts to state services through February 5. With that date approaching and no end in sight for the nearly month-long shutdown, it is now assessing what will happen beyond that date.
Kurt Weiss, spokesperson for the budget office, said a serious concern right now is there is no guarantee from the federal government that funding for food assistance programs will continue beyond February. The state has already decided to issue February benefits early in case the shutdown continues. Nearly 2 million people across Michigan receive some sort food assistance.
On Friday, Whitmer issued a statement along with Washington Governor Jay Inslee and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urging the opening of the federal government and, in the meantime, seeking guidance from it on allowing workers who remain on the job – but remain unpaid like U.S. Coast Guard members and Transportation Security Administration agents – to access unemployment benefits.
“Each of us has taken active measures permitted by law to alleviate the pain of the partial government shutdown, including providing unemployment benefits to furloughed federal workers and their families in our states who have missed paychecks and are now facing a very real threat of missing payments on their rent, mortgages, credit cards, phone bills and car loans,” the statement said. “Unfortunately, current federal regulations are preventing us from providing the same assistance to federal employees who are continuing to work full-time, despite not being paid for their work. This disparity is patently unfair and wrong. For the hundreds of thousands of federal workers who remain on their jobs – including Coast Guard members, TSA agents, air traffic controllers, food safety inspectors, CBP agents, and more – our states’ hands are tied from providing this much-needed relief.”
The three Democratic governors also said they are “profoundly distressed by the ongoing government shutdown and the total lack of progress toward reaching a resolution. We urge President Trump and Senate Republicans to immediately reopen the government for the hard-working federal employees in our states and across the country, a third of whom are veterans, who are badly hurting.”
Weiss said the state generally can operate seamlessly for about 45 days during a federal government shutdown. The shutdown is on day 28 and counting. Nearly $22 billion or 40 percent of the state’s $57 billion budget comes from the federal government.
Child nutrition programs, including school meals, have enough funding to cover through March. The Department of Environmental Quality, which spends about $120 million in federal funds each year, has been told by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that it can still draw down federal funds but its federal counterparts may not be available to engage in routine matters like permit decisions or data sharing.
For the Department of Transportation, there is enough funding to pay invoices and no immediate impacts are anticipated, Weiss said, but if the shutdown continues into March, cash flow could become a problem.
This story was published by Gongwer News Service.