Polk County prepares for potential local effects of government shutdown

Published 6:40pm Monday, October 14, 2013

A Polk County task force is drafting a plan to respond to the national government shutdown in case the county loses federal funding.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Oct. 7 and heard from interim county manager Marche Pittman who said departments facing potential effects from the shutdown include the transportation authority, the department of social services (DSS), the Meeting Place senior center and veteran’s affairs.

The task force includes Pittman, finance officer Sandra Hughes, transportation director Dianne Timberlake, DSS director Lou Parton and Meeting Place Director Pam Doty.

The government shutdown could mean the county does not receive federal funding for those departments.

“We are paying attention,” Pittman said. “This is not something that’s going to sneak up on us. “

Monday, Oct. 14 marked the 14th day of the shutdown, which has affected mostly the closing of national parks and furloughs of 350,000 federal workers so far, but on Thursday, Oct. 17 the U.S. faces the prospect of defaulting on its bonds.

In the beginning of 2013, Congress suspended the debt limit and leaders said then it was clear sooner or later the limit would need to be increased.

The borrowing limit, or debt limit, is the maximum amount set by Congress on the amount the U.S. can borrow. The debt limit currently stands at $16.7 trillion.

The U.S. Treasury estimates it will exhaust its legal authority to borrow on Oct. 17 and will have approximately $30 billion in cash on hand, plus each day’s tax receipts to pay those who are expecting to receive federal funding.

National leaders say the government will not default on its debt this Thursday but predicts the treasury will use up its cash balance by the end of October. At an unknown point between Thursday, Oct. 17 and Oct. 31, the treasury will have insufficient cash on hand to pay interest and principal on treasury securities. If Congress does not increase the debt limit before then, the treasury would then default on some of those securities.

Pittman said there’s no way to know if or when federal funding could stop for county departments. The task force is drafting a plan to continue to provide services locally just in case.

The county DSS department functions on partial federal funding and partial county funding.

The county transportation department receives federal funding mainly for administration and the Meeting Place receives federal funding for human services programs such as Meals on Wheels.

Polk County receives federal funding from reimbursements after the county has funded those services.

Pittman told commissioners last week the task force will know more about its plan in time for the county’s next meeting Oct. 21.

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