As the federal government shutdown closes in toward a third week, impacts are still hitting the local area, with the tribal government at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation announcing furloughs and reduced hours in some departments.
At Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Chief Administrative Officer Loren “Bum” Stiffarm said he would know more after a finance meeting this morning, but, for the moment, the Fort Belknap Indian Community has not laid off or furloughed anyone.
“Not yet,” he said. “We’re surviving.”
But the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs still is essentially shut down, with a skeleton staff in the Fort Belknap Agency offices, which are closed to the public at the moment.
At Rocky Boy, the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s Business Committee said in a press release that program directors have submitted plans to reduce expenses, including reduced work weeks, furloughs and volunteer furloughs for employees, and the Business Committee members themselves taking a 5 percent pay cut and a reduced work week, 32 hours, during the shutdown.
Most federal agencies completely or partially shut down Oct. 1 when Congress failed to pass a budget or a temporary extension to keep services running. The Republican-controlled House originally required some kind of cut or delay in implementing the health care reform passed in 2010, with the Senate Democrats — and President Barack Obama — saying they would not vote on a budget extension with strings attached.
While the focus now is on the Oct. 17 deadline to raise the debt ceiling to allow the U.S. Treasury to sell bonds and continue to pay the nation’s bills, negotiations continue on passing a resolution to re-open the federal government. But no definite end is in site.
The council of the Chippewa Cree Tribe said in the release that the total impact on employment and services at Rocky Boy is unknown.
“There is no speculation as to how long the furloughs will last and what the lasting impacts will be on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation,” the release said. “All employees are encouraged to stay in contact with their immediate supervisors, director, and human resource office.”
The plans in place will help the tribal government keep essential services in place, the release said, adding that the shutdown also impacts others services such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, contracted with the state government.
The TANF program now will be operating on a four-day work week and will be closed Fridays, the release said. Applications will still be taken by the TANF program; however, no funds will be available until further notice.
The Rocky Boy and Havre TANF offices will be open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, while the Box Elder TANF office will be open 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday, the release said.
Other programs at Rocky Boy listed in the release include the Rocky Boy Clinic, which will be operating on a full 40-hour work week.
The Rocky Boy Police Department will be in full force with some maintenance staff taking furloughs, and Tribal Water Resources will be in full operation with essential staff only and will be on a 32-hour work week, the release said.