Michigan Budget Director John Nixon said today (10.2) the state has begun to take steps to address the partial shutdown of the federal government, including the issuance of furlough notices to employee unions with workers partially or fully funded through federal money, Gongwer News Service reported.
Nixon said the notices do not peg a specific number of workers who could be subject to furlough or indefinite layoff if Congress remains stymied on authorizing federal spending. Majority Republicans in the U.S. House are pushing for some type of delay or defunding of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as part of authorizing spending for the federal government.
“We hope not to have to trigger the actual furloughs or the indefinite layoffs,” he said.
Nixon said he is asking state departments and agencies to limit discretionary spending in federal programs to preserve cash flow. And he has ordered a hiring freeze on any state programs that receive federal money. He did not have a number on how many open positions would be frozen.
Nixon said state government receives about $55 million a day from the federal government with 65 percent of that for mandated spending on programs like Medicaid and unemployment. But the rest is non-mandatory spending.
One major concern is that authorization for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and food assistance programs also expired at midnight today, Nixon said. Usually, those programs would fall under the area of mandatory federal spending and be unaffected by the shutdown, but without authorization, those programs will get hit, he said.
Federal food assistance benefits have been provided to recipients through October. TANF money, or cash assistance, will begin to run out in two weeks, Nixon said.
“In two weeks, we really start to feel the pain. In a month, we’ve got a lot of problems,” he said.
Other programs with immediate funding concerns are the Women, Infants and Children program, which has enough money for about 10 days, the child nutrition and school lunch programs (with enough funding for about two weeks), low-income energy assistance (if a cold snap hits sooner than expected), the labor market division and the social services block grant, Nixon said.
If Congress and President Barack Obama reach an agreement to reauthorize federal spending before the end of the week, the impact to state government operations will be minimal, Nixon told reporters. But if the shutdown stretches longer, especially more than two weeks, serious problems will begin to unfold, he said.
“Right now we’re in a very difficult situation,” he said. “I don’t care what it looks like, just get it done.”
Jerry Wolffe is the Writer-in-Residence and Advocate-at-Large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586-263-8950.