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Federal government shutdown affects local communities

 

December 28, 2018

The third government shutdown of 2018 has completed its first week and many agencies statewide are feeling the effects, including in north-central Montana.

Fort Belknap Indian Reservation said that, without new federal funding, it will have to put a contingency plan into effect next week that will include cutting services.

“We have essential government services that we need to provide,” Community Council President Andrew Werk Jr. said in a press release. “The government needs to come to an agreement and get a budget passed so that we can continue to provide these services to our community at full capacity. Our priority is the health and safety of our community.”

The government shutdown started midnight last Friday and shows no sign of ending any time soon.

The Fort Belknap release said the tribal government can continue full operations through Friday, Jan. 4, but because it appears the shutdown will continue past that, “at this point, the Fort Belknap Indian Community will fully implement their Fort Belknap Indian Community ‘Contingency Plan,’ which places the Fort Belknap Indian Community tribal government operations in shutdown status that will include some layoffs and the shutting down of some services and systems.”

The release said that during this time the Fort Belknap Indian Community tribal government will remain in service, although there will be a decrease in program spending. It added that this excludes essential services such as public safety, social services, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, the Women, Infants and Children program, and medical transportation.

The release states that once the contingency plan goes into motion approximately 185 of the 359 tribal employees will be furloughed. It added that 74 temporary employees have already been let go since the shut down.

A representative of Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, who declined to give her name, said the shutdown will not affect the operations of Rocky Boy, which is a self-governing reservation.

A Farm Services Agency release said FSA had enough funding to continue operations through today.

It added that if people need to visit their local FSA county office they will need to call ahead of time to ensure the FSA office is open.

Farm loan services will be limited. People can sign up for the Market Facilitation Program, which ends Jan 15. People do not need to be finished with harvest to sign up.  Farmers have until May 1 to certify production.

The Bureau of Land Management office in Havre plays a recorded message when called, saying the office is closed due to a lapse in government funding.

U.S. Border Patrol community relations officer Michael Rappold said the agency is considered essential and is continuing full operations.

Agencies considered essential continue operations during a shutdown, although personnel are not paid during the shutdown. They generally receive back pay after funding is restored.

Not all programs that rely on federal funding were impacted.

Hill County Health Department Kim Larsen said the health department was not affected by the government shutdown and that “WIC is still running as usual.”

Marissa Perry, Gov. Steve Bullock’s press secretary, said in an email to the Havre Daily News Thursday that, in anticipation of the government shutdown, Montana directed agencies to work with federal partners to ensure all fundings for programs have been secured and Montana expects little-to-no-impact for state-based services such as public health, public safety and public education.

“Montana was one of the few states able to weather the three-week federal government shutdown in 2013 without any gaps in service or employee furloughs,” she added in the email.

Some federal agencies also continued full operations because their funding was approved prior to the shutdown.

Bureau of Reclamation representative Jack Conner said that agency was not affected by the government shutdown.

Conner said that because their “budget was allocated a month or two ago,” they were able to avoid experiencing many of the hardships other agencies are enduring.

“We have some people out on leave for the holiday, but that’s normal,” Conner added.

A release from Bullock’s office issued last Friday said he and Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called on Congress and the Trump Administration to reach an agreement and avert the shutdown — hours before it went into effect.

“A federal shutdown is indicative of a government that is not working,” they wrote in a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“Governors compromise every day. We must work with partners in our legislatures and with stakeholders throughout our states,” the governors wrote in the letter. “It is not a choice; it is a necessity to ensure the citizens we serve in our states — the same ones you represent at the national level — have access to the basic functions that allow them to lead good lives. Governors are not able to entrench ourselves and enter stalemates that shut down our governments. States are better than that — and so too is the federal government.”

“Montanans expect their government to get things done,” Bullock said in the press release. “Our legislature is majority Republican and we don’t always see eye to eye on everything, but at the end of the day we come together and we govern. We can have legitimate differences over public policy, but all Americans should expect more from the greatest country in the world than to shut down our government based on political brinkmanship.”

 

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