January 19, 2018

Shutdown impact on CT would depend on how long it lasts

The U.S. House approved a short-term spending bill late Thursday, but the legislation that would avert a government shutdown is expected to face a tough time in the Senate.

That means the federal government could shut down just after midnight Friday. The impact of that shutdown on Connecticut would depend on how long lawmakers fight over the budget.

The House on Thursday voted largely along partisan lines, 230-197, to approve the short-term bill, or continuing resolution.

That bill would keep the government open through Feb. 16 while extending the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years and rolling back several taxes in the Affordable Care Act.

But the CR does not include a solution for "dreamers," the undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, as Democrats have demanded, and fails to address other Democratic priorities.

"Today was another missed opportunity to vote for the 700,000 DACA recipients waiting to know their current legal status," said Rep. John Larson, D-1st District. "We missed the opportunity to address the opioid crisis in our country, the opportunity to adequately fund our community health centers, and the opportunity to properly provide disaster relief to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands."

Larson said while the CR funds CHIP, known as HUSKY B in Connecticut, "Republicans are playing politics with children's health insurance by adding it to a package that neglects so many other crucial priorities."

Without congressional action, the HUSKY B program that covers about 17,000 Connecticut children will end on Feb. 28.

Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, said she opposed the short-term spending bill because of the uncertainty these CRs provoke.

"No business would survive if it ran itself the way our government has for the past several months," Esty said.

While the spending bill was approved by the U.S. House, Democratic opposition to the CR in the Senate, coupled with the "no" votes of a few Republicans who say they will reject the spending bill, could scuttle the bill in that chamber Friday.

Initially few Connecticut residents would feel the effect of a federal shutdown – unless they work for the federal government or planned a trip to a national park or museum, which would be shuttered.

Mail would be delivered and Social Security recipients would get their checks – although new applications would not be processed. Passport and visa applications would be delayed, as could some mortgage approvals if federal agencies are involved.

Uniformed military members and some civilians, including those working at the New London submarine base and at the state's Coast Guard stations, would continue to be required to report for duty, but they would stop getting paid.

There are about 9,000 federal workers living in Connecticut — 2,625 working for the Pentagon alone, mostly at Naval Submarine Base New London.

Those federal employees would either be classified as "essential" and continue to go to work, like those at the naval base, or be furloughed, like those who work for Connecticut's Farm Service Agency.

Only those working for agencies that are funded outside of congressional appropriations would get paid.

Connecticut's federal court would curtail or postpone civil cases, but criminal cases probably wouldn't be affected unless the shutdown drags on for more than two weeks.

According to the Congressional Research Service, there have been 18 federal government shutdowns since 1977. Most have lasted three days or less, but the last one, in October of 2013, lasted 16 days.

Another shutdown of that length could affect a number of federally funded poverty programs in the state.

Connecticut receives more than $1 billion each year for federal nutrition programs (from food stamps to school breakfasts); more than $2.5 billion from Washington to run Medicaid, the government health program for the poor; and more than $500 million for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the official name for the state's welfare program.

Some of those payments could be delayed.

Chris McClure, the spokesman for the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management, said the state is still weighing the impact of a shutdown.

The last time the federal government was shuttered, several Head Start programs in the state were forced to close because they had not renewed their contracts with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in time.

A spokeswoman for the Connecticut Department of Early Childhood Education said that's not going to happen again, because the two centers whose contracts are up for renewal on Feb. 1 already have done so.

But a prolonged shutdown could affect the state's $14 billion defense industry.

During the last shutdown, United Technologies announced plans for the temporary layoff of thousands of workers, a result of the shutdown's furlough of federal auditors who audit and approve operations at the company's plants.

The consideration of bids by smaller government contractors in Connecticut and the awarding of federal work to them also might be delayed. Some federal contractors in the state may even receive "stop work" orders.

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