Local impact of shutdown subtle
The federal shutdown has impacted Fort Dodge and Webster County in ways subtle and explicit.
According to David Roederer, Iowa Department of Management director, the shutdown has not badly affected state operations.
“So far, so good, as far as we’re able to maintain all of our services,” Roederer said. “There are a couple of areas where we have some concerns. One is in the area of Workforce Development, and the other is the National Guard.”
The U.S. Department of Labor has turned off its servers, Roederer said, affecting workforce development. Its website is no longer being updated, as well.
“The access to information, we’re not able to get to. For the most part, most of the websites at the federal level, for whatever reason, have been shut down,” he said. “And so the areas where we need to work with them, it’s made it a little problematic. There’s no reason for these servers to be shut down.”
The National Guard has many positions, Roederer said, that are funded by both state and federal money.
“The issue there is the way we are reimbursed for that,” he said. “It’s basically so much a year and we get reimbursed on a monthly basis. Those particular areas, it’s more if someone is not to be working from the federal side, then we may not be able to get reimbursed for those folks, and those are the ones we’re concerned about. Hopefully we’ll have that clarified more today.”
Roederer said he does not believe counties will be affected much by the shutdown in terms of state funding.
“I’m thinking there would be a minimal impact,” he said. “The sooner this gets resolved, the better it would be for us.”
One county-level service, the WIC program, has been directly affected by the shutdown. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children program provides for the nutritional needs of low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of 5.
According to Kari Prescott, Webster County Health Department executive director, there are more than 2,400 children in Webster County who benefit from WIC.
“We received a suspension notice of our WIC grant, which means that WIC will cease services on October 10th,” Prescott said. “Now, today, we have a revised suspension. That means they will allow us to operate our WIC program until the 31st of October. And what that means is, if the government can’t come to an agreement, WIC will cease operations beginning November 1st.”
With WIC services potentially ending Nov. 1, Webster County Health is putting together a plan to provide needed resources to its clients, especially formula for infants.
“The formula is very expensive, and the kids in our WIC program are already at-risk children,” Prescott said. “If their parents are working parents and they have to pay $23 a week for formula, they’re not going to be able to afford that very long. They’re going to have to make the decision, do I get medication or do I get formula? Because funds are so limited for those families.”
Webster County Health is seeking donations and has already received some support.
“We received notice there was some people that would donate some formula to our department. The hospital has reached out to us to offer some assistance on a donation,” Prescott said. “What we want to do is have a plan in place. We’ll be asking for some community support for some donations of formula.”
Head Start will not be affected by the shutdown, as it is funded through July 31, 2014, but will be helping collect formula for Webster County Health, according to Head Start Director Bonnie Calvert.
Agriculture is also being affected by the shutdown.
Brad Koester, Webster County farmer, described the government shutdown as an inconvenience.
Farmers with questions about Conservation Reserve Program and other program payments will have to wait until the government restores funding to agriculture programs.
Koester, who serves as a member of the Webster County Farm Services Agency Committee, said committee members “don’t get involved with day-to-day operations.”
“We’re in the same boat like anyone else. We don’t know anything until we see it on the news,” Koester said. “As a farmer, I can’t get my questions answered and I feel terrible for the office workers who aren’t getting paid. Everyone has bills to pay.”
According to contingency plans filed by the FSA and Natural Resources Conservation Service prior to the shutdown, nonessential employees are placed on emergency furlough.
The NRCS listed activities that cannot be conducted during the shutdown including:
No contracts may be awarded.
No travel of personnel or transportation of items.
No attendance of any scheduled meetings, including training.
Other directives include notifying contractors working with government entities for projects that they may continue their portions of work at their own risks, that they may not use any federal government resources for their work during the shutdown, and that all payments for work will be delayed.
The FSA shutdown protocol claimed that all contracts and agreements awarded before the shutdown, including farm bill programs will remain in effect.