Geoff Dornan

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October 9, 2013
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Shutdown would close Nevada programs in Nov.

If the federal shutdown continues past the end of the month, there would be major impacts to Nevada programs ranging from food stamps to the national guard as well as, potentially, forcing hundreds of layoffs.

That was the word agency heads gave Gov. Brian Sandoval during Tuesday’s cabinet meeting.

He scheduled a briefing later Tuesday for legislative leadership, as well, and said he will send a letter detailing the potential impacts on Nevada and its citizens to the state’s Congressional delegation.

“There’s starting to be some real consequences here,” Sandoval said. “I’m not pointing any fingers. Not laying blame.”

He said he would stay out of the political battle and just ensure the state’s House and Senate members know the consequences of a long shutdown.

Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden said the food stamp program alone employs some 1,300 workers and serves 365,000 people with monthly benefits. He said that federally funded program sends out $45 million a month in benefits and, without that federal money, there’s no way Nevada could continue doing so after the end of October. As for the more than 1,300 state workers in that division, he said many of them would have to be furloughed without pay because half the administrative costs are paid by the federal government.

Willden said that $45 million generates twice that in economic impacts.

“So if we spend $45 million a month, it benefits almost $100 million to the economy,” he said.

Sandoval said there are a number of programs the state can support if the shutdown continues but that food stamps isn’t one of them.

“When it comes to the food stamp program, that’s $45 million,” said Sandoval. “We don’t have it.”

Willden said the other major program hurt in his department is the nutrition fund for Women, Infants and Children also would have to be effectively shut down at the end of October. That program has 74,000 participants, 56,000 of them children aged five and younger and provides food to those who can’t otherwise afford it. Losing federal money would only impact 16 state workers who Willden said his department could absorb into other slots, but he said more than 300 contact employees in the state’s WIC clinics would be without funding.

“Between the two, that’s 425,000 people and $50 million a month,” he said adding that there’s no way the state could afford to cover the tab until the crisis in Washington is fixed.

The Employment Security Division also would be badly hurt by a continued shutdown. Sandoval said there still would be money coming in to the unemployment trust fund from the federal government but that funding for the administrative staff that gets the cash to the jobless is cut off this week. He said the division could only cover those costs through the end of the month.

“They have the money but there’s no one to process it,” he said.

Employment Security employs more than 450 people.

Sandoval said the consequences “increase exponentially” if the shutdown goes into November.

Other programs that would be shuttered include Rape Prevention Education and social services programs totaling more than $14.3 million.

Gen. Bill Burk said the National Guard got a partial reprieve when Congress and the president agreed to fund bringing back some 500 technicians originally furloughed. But he said cuts to other federal resources are forcing the guard to spend $233,021 ever week to cover unfunded federal liabilities for personnel, utilities and fixed expenses. He said he doesn’t know that any of that money will be reimbursed when the shutdown ends.

A variety of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation programs also are impacted in addition to employment security. Those include vocational rehabilitation, blind services, independent living grants and Social Security Disability adjudications. The Social Security program will be unable to process claims until the funding is restored. Federal officials have said the SSA program would reimburse the state once funding is restored but that commitment is not in the law and, so, not guaranteed.

Sandoval said the good news is there are several high profile departments in the state not impacted.

“Public Safety, Transportation and Education are all in good shape,” he said.

Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp said the NDOT funding “is rock solid.” Public Safety Director Jim Wright said he has very few concerns about his programs and Superintendent of Education Dale Erquiaga said that area is relatively unharmed at the state level.

“Our programs are, for now, secure,” he said.

Those, he said, include child nutrition programs offered through the schools.

But he said Payment in Lieu of Taxes grants to the individual school district — compensation for counties with huge percentages of untaxable federal land — are cut off during the shutdown.

Sandoval said the workers who could be furloughed or left without pay by a continued shutdown need to be made aware this is a possibility. But he cautioned his directors about how they present that potential saying “I don’t want to cause a panic.”

He said he and his directors will continue to monitor all potential impacts and keep everyone informed about any decisions they have to make.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Oct 9, 2013 11:18AM Published Oct 9, 2013 12:47AM Copyright 2013 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.