Connecticut Watches As U.S. Senate Decides Spending Measure
HARTFORD, CT —The U.S. House voted Thursday to keep the government open, but it’s unclear if the U.S. Senate will follow their lead.
The House voted 230-197 Thursday evening. All five members of Connecticut’s U.S. House delegation voted against temporarily extending spending for the federal government an additional four weeks.
The real drama will be in the Senate.
Republicans have a 51-49 majority in the Senate, but Sen. John McCain is absent due to cancer treatment and Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Mike Rounds of South Dakota have said they’re against the measure.
The last time there was a federal government shutdown was in 2013.
In preparation for a potential government shutdown five years ago Connecticut state agencies were directed to come up with proposals for how to handle the shutdown and continue to operate their agency without federal funds.
However, that direction only came after the Office of Management and Budget released its guidance. Since the shutdown hasn’t happened yet there’s little if anything the state can do to prepare, according to Connecticut officials.
The federal government does have its own contingency plans by agency, but many haven’t been updated since 2015. Others, like the National Labor Relations Board and U.S. Department of Labor, have been updated as recently as this month.
According to its contingency plan, the National Labor Relations Board said it would keep the Office of Inspector General hotline staffed and make an emergency contact available, but it would stop almost everything else it does and furlough 1,426 of the agency’s 1,435 employees.
The U.S. Department of Labor would shrink from 15,383 employees down to 2,582 employees if the federal government shutdown, according to their recently filed contingency plan.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ contingency plan would have 95.5 percent of its employees either fully funded or required to perform excepted functions during a shutdown.
The U.S. Department of Justice’s contingency plan, which was updated in Sept. 2017, says more than 95,102 or 83 percent of its employees would be exempted from a furlough and required to report to work.
In October 2013, the state of Connecticut stepped in and provided about $800,000 to Head Start centers in Bridgeport that relied on a payment from the federal government. It was later reimbursed when the government reopened two weeks later.
Another casualty that year of the shutdown was disability payments to veterans.
Since many federal grants for everything from Medicaid to energy assistance are reimbursements there’s little immediate concern among Connecticut officials about a temporary shutdown.