While the CNMI government passed its $123.4 million budget ahead of today’s start of fiscal year 2014, the federal government is on the brink of a shutdown for the first time in nearly two decades as Congress runs out of time and option to keep it open. The CNMI is now weighing the possible impacts.
Gov. Eloy S. Inos said if any federal government shutdown is prolonged, the CNMI as recipient of federal funds could feel the impact.
Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) said the Republicans’ continuing resolution delaying President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 healthcare law would strip the CNMI and other U.S. territories of new Medicaid funding.
The new law provides $109 million in additional Medicaid funding for the CNMI, “money that is helping to keep our hospital open,” Sablan said.
Inos said the CNMI government does not have reserve funds to cushion the loss of federal funds if a shutdown drags on.
As of yesterday, the CNMI has yet to weigh the full brunt on the local government.
“You can never tell. We don’t know how long the shutdown period will be. If it’s only a few days, maybe not [impacted]… It’s all a matter of the grants being affected or not,” the governor said in an interview.
Inos said the CNMI was affected by the federal sequestration, a series of national spending cuts, “but that’s all planned out already.”
If Congress and Obama fail to reach a deal, a U.S. government shutdown will begin at 12:01am Tuesday in the mainland.
House Republicans’ version of a spending plan would delay Obamacare for a year and repeal its tax on medical devices. But Obama and Democratic leaders want a simple bill that funds federal agencies without dismantling any part of Obamacare.
The governor believes any shutdown won’t be for an extended period of time “because a good 60 percent of federal government operations would be affected by that.”
“There’s really not a whole lot we can do to prepare. Because I’m talking about agencies, programs that are funded by federal funds. Obviously we don’t have the local resources to cushion any void in federal funding so it is our wish that the [federal] budget will be approved as soon as possible so that we can all get back on running the programs,” he said.
Inos added he has yet to ascertain the programs that will be affected.
“There will be some grants that probably will be affected but most of the grants pretty much have been granted, awarded prior years,” he added.
The CNMI government also went through a shutdown in 2010 when the House and Senate were deadlocked on a new budget, sending over a thousand government employees home and many public offices closed for over a week.