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HHS: Federal shutdown rough on NC

Posted November 19, 2013

— State health officials said Tuesday that the federal shutdown's impact on North Carolina was short-lived, but severe.

Assistant Health and Human Services Secretary Sherry Bradsher told the Joint HHS Oversight committee that 1,473 workers at the Department of Health and Human Services were furloughed for part or all of October's shutdown because they are paid with federal money. 

Bradsher said grants frozen by the shutdown totaled $583 million, which is 75 percent of the money the agency receives from the federal government for everything from child care to food stamps and services for people with disabilities. 

Adding to the severity of the effect, she said, was the timing of the shutdown. Because it happened at the very beginning of the federal fiscal year, the state wasn't able to draw down its first-quarter share of the new year's grants. That left very little carryover money to keep services going. 

She said state and county staff scrambled to figure out what money was available, what it could be used for and how best to preserve critical services like child protection.

Bradsher said some programs actually owed more for services already rendered in September than they had in the bank when October began. She said that's why some services, like child care, were suspended, while others, like Women Infants and Children, would not enroll new claims till the shutdown was resolved. 

According to Bradsher, services quickly resumed as soon as it was resolved, and federally funded workers who were sent home did receive back pay.

That news irritated Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union.

"There was no productivity for the state from those individuals," Tucker said. "So, they got vacation days. Is that what I’m hearing?"

"They were not vacation days," responded DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos. "Folks who were 100 percent federal, there was no money to pay them, and we were informed that they have to be furloughed, just like in Washington." 

Wos said staff whose positions were partially federally funded worked shorter hours or shorter weeks where practicable. 

If another shutdown should happen in January, Bradsher said, the state will be better able to handle it because some of this year's grant money is now in state accounts.

But both Bradsher and Wos recommended that lawmakers rethink the practice of using discretionary federal dollars to fund critically needed services and staff positions. 

In offices for 100 percent federally funded programs, Wos said, "There was no one even to answer the phone." 

The secretary said she's working with counties to develop a blueprint for similar situations in the future.

"The take-home message for all of us is, how do we create a situation where we don’t have all our eggs in one basket?" she said.

23 Comments

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  • junkmail5 Nov 22, 2:56 p.m.

    Well the PEOPLE that got furloughed were PAID, so essentially the Senator is correct, it was vacation- whatelseisnew

    Well, not quite. Because they weren't granted back pay until AFTER the shutdown.

    It'd be like your boss said "Go home for 3 weeks... after that we'll CONSIDER paying you for the time... I mean, we PROBABLY will.. but no guarantees!"

    So not quite a paid vacation.

    Food stamps should not exist.
    whatelseisnew

    So starving poor people to death is your plan for dealing with them?

  • whatelseisnew Nov 21, 4:38 p.m.

    "
    "There was no productivity for the state from those individuals," Tucker said. "So, they got vacation days. Is that what I’m hearing?"

    Was the above Senator sleeping under a rock? What part of federal Shutdown did he not understand?"

    Well the PEOPLE that got furloughed were PAID, so essentially the Senator is correct, it was vacation. Not sure what you call it. If your employer sent you home say for a couple of weeks, you did not work, and then your employer paid you anyway, what would your call that? If I worked for the federal government I would be rooting for a few shutdowns every year. Why not? it is extra paid for time off. the real problem is we need to eliminate at least 1/2 of ALL government employees, but won't happen until people finally realize we can not pay for what is happening.

  • whatelseisnew Nov 21, 4:32 p.m.

    "There's no ACA "disaster" anywhere, but there's an abundance of "fake outrage" from Republicans."

    The ACA disaster is Nationwide and the damage is far greater than what is being reported by the Obama boot-licking media. Gullible??? Gee I wonder how many Dems that voted for Obama and Dem members of congress understood they were about to be severely damaged by a group of people whose only mission is to buy votes. Dems are throwing Americans under the bus if they think they can milk more votes from Group B than they used to milk from Group A. Lefties are both gullible and foolish. Our society overall is in a downward spiral and at every turn it is easy to recognize the handiwork of the extremists driving their inane agendas.

  • whatelseisnew Nov 21, 4:26 p.m.

    Food stamps should not exist.

  • NC_interest Nov 21, 2:13 p.m.

    Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union.

    "There was no productivity for the state from those individuals," Tucker said. "So, they got vacation days. Is that what I’m hearing?"

    Was the above Senator sleeping under a rock? What part of federal Shutdown did he not understand?

  • GovernmentMule Nov 21, 1:12 p.m.

    "There's no ACA "disaster" anywhere, but there's an abundance of "fake outrage" from Republicans." - jackjones2nc

    Yeah, because millions of Americans unexpectedly losing their health insurance because of a law that nobody read isn't a disaster.

    2 + 2 = 7

  • jackjones2nc Nov 21, 10:03 a.m.

    Foodstamptrader - Few Americans are as gullible as conservatives seem to be. Americans understand the difference between a buggy website and the federal ACA law. There's no ACA "disaster" anywhere, but there's an abundance of "fake outrage" from Republicans.

  • junkmail5 Nov 21, 7:23 a.m.

    ILOVE..Explai o me where the wage increase comes from. Say they raise the minimum up by $1.00 per hour. Where does the dollar originate? Doesn't it have to come from off the top of the business owners profits -wayneboyd

    Sure.

    And businesses have been posting RECORD profits.

    ? Therefore the business owner raises the prices of the goods he he sells- wayneboyd

    Actual studies show it doesn't really work that way though.

    Min wage increases generally cause VERY tiny price increases.

    For one thing Min wage doesn't index to inflation... so prices set when the minimum wage was MUCH higher (in inflation adjusted dollars)than now would absorb the difference in getting it back on track.

    Min wage, inflated adjusted, was over -10- bucks an hour in 1968.

    Today?

    Less than $8 an hour.

    Move it back to $10 and prices wouldn't actually need to move at all... though companies might only see "near" record profits for a little while until inflation (which DOES raise prices) eats the gain up.

  • wayneboyd Nov 20, 7:44 p.m.

    ILOVE..Explai o me where the wage increase comes from. Say they raise the minimum up by $1.00 per hour. Where does the dollar originate? Doesn't it have to come from off the top of the business owners profits, and doesn't that dollaar increase also require more SS taxes to be deducted from the employee and matched by the employer?
    Therefore the business owner raises the prices of the goods he he sells to cover the minimum wage increase and as I shop from retail outfit to retail outfit my $1.00 increase is quickly consumed in the raising of retail prices, therefore it is my opinion that a raise in the minimum wage will only benefit merchants manufacturers, and the tax man.

  • GovernmentMule Nov 20, 7:39 p.m.

    What shutdown? Eighty Three percent of the federal government went right on running, just as it always does.

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