Some federally funded programs in the CNMI, including those at the Commonwealth Health Center, will be impacted by the first U.S. government shutdown in 17 years but the full extent and duration of these effects will not be known until the next few days.
Some federal employees stationed here have also started receiving furlough notices.
The CNMI is ahead of Washington, D.C. by one day so some federal agencies here were also still waiting for specific notices from their main offices as of yesterday afternoon.
Roxanne Diaz, CHC Division of Public Health director, confirmed with Saipan Tribune yesterday that some of their programs, including the Women, Infant and Children, or WIC, program, are impacted by the shutdown.
“But we do have contingency plans in place to ensure that our operations don’t get affected. As for the WIC program, we have to prioritize the resources,” Diaz said.
She said they will issue a statement today on the specific programs impacted by the shutdown.
The WIC program is a federally funded supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children up to 5 years old.
Congress failed to pass a budget before the midnight deadline to keep the government open at the start of fiscal year 2014 on Oct. 1.
Congress is so bitterly divided over President Barack Obama’s signature 2010 health-care initiative that they failed to strike a deal to fund federal agencies. The results of the impasse are staggering. See sidebar
Gov. Eloy S. Inos, in a statement yesterday afternoon, said the CNMI government will seek guidance from federal grantors regarding the U.S. government shutdown’s impact on federally funded personnel and programs here.
“At this time, there is no telling how long this shutdown will last and how much the grants we receive will be affected,” he said.
Inos has also asked the Office of Grants Management to communicate with grantors, such as the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs and others “to give us official notice of what steps need to be taken so that we can properly inform federally funded employees here who may be affected.”
The governor said both sides of Congress need to keep working toward an agreement in order to ensure that employees and programs get back to work right away.
“It is worrisome because in the case of the employees here in the Commonwealth, the local government does not have the capacity or reserve funds to cushion any void in federal funding. Our leaders at the national level just have to work this out so that critical federally funded services can remain available for everyone, including us here in the Commonwealth and the other territories,” Inos said.
CNMI Department of Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Arnold I. Palacios said if the federal government shutdown is prolonged, the impacts could be felt on federal grant drawdowns.
At DLNR alone, a little over 40 employees are funded by federal grants, he said.
“So far, these employees are not affected because of the grant cycle. But if this shutdown goes on for a long period of time, that may affect them and the programs they handle plus the drawdowns,” he said.
CNMI Division of Environmental Quality director Frank Rabauliman shared the DLNR secretary’s concerns about possible delays in federal grant drawdowns.
“We are closely monitoring the current issues. Like I said, the only thing that may be impacted, and I could be corrected on this one, are the drawdowns,” he said.
He said his office also received notification that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration office on Saipan will be closed because of the shutdown.
“I haven’t heard from the [U.S. Environmental Protection Agency] and we will wait for communication from them,” he said.
DEQ had just received a $1.7-million grant from EPA for fiscal year 2014. This is one of three yearly grants that DEQ receives from EPA, and the first one is almost always the biggest amount, Rabauliman said.
Jason Beatty, chief ranger at the American Memorial Park in Garapan, separately said that they “have not received a standing order yet” as of yesterday afternoon.
“But if we receive one, we have a plan in place. Facilities at the American Memorial Park will be closed and secured for an indefinite period of time. We will cease operations. The amphitheater, the administrative office will be closed, there won’t be any special permit issued,” said Beatty, one of 11 National Parks Service personnel on Saipan.
Closures of parks and museums under the U.S. National Park Service are among the examples of services affected by a government shutdown.
Some 800,000 federal workers and services out of 2 million will also be furloughed. In Guam alone, hundreds of federal employees face furloughs.
Delegate Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-Guam), in a statement on the indefinite federal government shutdown, said she “regret[s] that partisan politics have led us to this unnecessary shutdown.”
“I am concerned about federal employees and contractors who may be furloughed and who will not be able to receive the same retroactive pay that was offered to those were furloughed during the government shutdown in 1996. I share the frustration of millions of Americans across our country, including many of you from Guam whom I have heard from over the weekend and over the past few weeks,” she said.