Agencies regroup, brace as second shutdown looms
America’s longest-ever partial government shutdown is set to resume Friday, Feb. 15, unless President Donald Trump and Congress can compromise on an appropriations bill for 2019.
That compromise hinges on funding for Trump’s proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall. The president said in December that he will veto any proposal that does not fund the project.
The shutdown began Dec. 22, impacting hundreds of thousands of federal employees, who were furloughed or forced to work without pay until lawmakers passed a bill to reopen the federal government temporarily Friday, Jan. 25.
On Feb. 15, that stopgap bill will expire, meaning more gridlock and more uncertainty for federal workers and Americans who rely on federal programs like food stamps and farm loans.
Phillips County Department of Human Services Director Penny Verhoeff said her office is warning local food stamp recipients that additional support received in January was not a “bonus” but will have to last them through February.
“For those who are receiving, they just need to be stretching their dollars as best they can,” she said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen in a couple of weeks.”
According to a U.S. Census Bureau estimate, in 2017, 10.6 percent of Phillips County households received benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program.
PCDHS has not had to furlough or lay off any employees due to the shutdown. Verhoeff said that, for now, food stamps were the only program under threat.
For the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, the shutdown prompted extensions for more than a dozen programs that had deadlines between Dec. 31 and Jan. 23.
Despite Colorado State University receiving some federal funds for its Extension program, CSU Extension 4-H Program Associate Kindra Plumb said the shutdown hadn’t impacted CSU Extension’s Holyoke office.
The United States Postal Service, Medicare and Medicaid also remain unaffected by the shutdown.