"Not Everything Is Back To Normal Now That The Shutdown Is Over"
CREDIT: AP Photo/Steve Helber
With President Obama’s signing of a bill that funded the government through January 15 on late Wednesday evening, the federal government officially reopened and many impacts of the shutdown were immediately reversed. National parks were opened, furloughed workers went back to work, and federal money started flowing to different programs. But not all of the impacts were completely reversed on Thursday morning, and some lingering side effects are still being felt.
For a small business owner like LaJuanna Russell, president of consultancy Business Management Associates Inc. that primarily works with federal clients, the biggest impact is likely to be delayed payments on invoices that have been waiting to be processed. “We’re going to be paid late for everything,” she said. But she doesn’t have a lot of cash to spare to cover her costs in the meantime. “That’s why we’re pretty diligent about getting invoices out on time,” she added, “so we’ll see what happens.” On top of that, all of the work has now been backed up, but she doesn’t have money allotted to pay her employees overtime. “Now we’re trying to get all of the work done in the timeframe we had,” she said, which will be a challenge.
That is, of course, if none of the contracts have been changed. She doesn’t know yet whether any agencies will decide to shift money around in the wake of the shutdown, which could impact the contracts she had in place before it happened. “Based on everything that I have heard,” she said, “the work should still come to us.” But so far it’s not clear.
Other small business owners who have been waiting on loans from the Small Business Administration may also have to twiddle their thumbs a bit more. The backlog of all the applications that have been put on hold while the government was closed could take six weeks or more to work through.
Some work that was put on hold may not be so easy to resume, however. NASA researcher Lee Stone previously told ThinkProgress that the furlough meant that he wasn’t able to conduct the preparations for an upcoming experiment with the Ames Research Center 20-g centrifuge, which means his previous work will have to be re-done and the experiment rescheduled. But the centrifuge is reserved for other work down the road, so he may miss the opportunity altogether. Meanwhile, an international conference was supposed to be held at Ames last week with experts from around the world, but it was canceled due to the shutdown. Other scientific projects were put on hold and may never fully recover.
While furloughed federal workers will receive back pay, private contract employees aren’t so lucky. John Anderson, who was laid off from his job as a line cook at a museum cafeteria in Washington, D.C. due to the shutdown, convinced his landlords not to evict he and his son during the shutdown. Now he’s been hired back but has no way to replace the two weeks of lost income and has another two weeks until payday. “I was living week to week,” he told the Washington Post. “Now I’m living day to day.”
And the people who work for hotels, restaurants, and other services near national parks, which were closed and bled $76 million a day from local communities, may also have a tough time recovering. Jayson Matthews, chief development officer at United Food Bank in Arizona, said, “A lot of the businesses in our service area are seasonal and rely on tourists,” but while they were planning on a strong October in terms of revenues, “now the best October they’ll have might be half of what they were expecting.” His organization is bracing for a potential “shockwave” of workers who lose tips, hours, or wages with the loss of tourism and create an increase in demand for the food banks’ services.
Many other social programs, meanwhile, were nervous about a shutdown that lasted into November, but up until the end of the shutdown the loss of federal funds was being covered by state money. With federal funds flowing again, most programs won’t see much of an interruption and benefits will continue to go out as before.
But for a select few others, there may be snags. For most of the schools that the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools (NAFIS) works with, who receive Impact Aid as a large part of their budgets because they are near military bases or Native American reservations, the delay in government funding should not end up having a severe impact. “We went right to the edge of the cliff without falling off,” Bryan Jernigan, a spokesman at NAFIS. However, he estimated that there is a handful of schools that had requested early payments to cover dire needs that needed the money before the end of the month. Given that those payments aren’t likely to be processed and delivered for another 10 days to two weeks, “they’re going to be in bad shape and need that money as soon as possible.” He thinks most can go to banks they have prior relationships with to borrow money to bridge that gap, but even if it’s a small amount it will come with interest payments that the school will have to pay.
The deal to resolve the shutdown came just in time for the Low-Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the federal program that helps low-income families heat their homes through the winter, but because the program needs to start making payments by mid-November, the window for distributing those funds to the states is closing fast. “The question is when they’ll get the money. The machinery of government has to get started again,” said Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association. “There’s every expectation at this point that they’ll get it out within a month,” but “longer than that, it’ll cause real harm.”
And while North Carolina stopped processing new applications for its state welfare program, Elizabeth Lower-Basch, policy coordinator at CLASP, thinks that the backlog will be small enough that it shouldn’t cause any problems. For the other state programs, the resumption in federal funding should be automatic. There may be some people who have been confused about conflicting information about whether state welfare and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) programs have been funded who “may just throw up their hands at some point,” she said, although “my guess is that’s not a huge effect.”