Williamson County will survive shutdown
By Kerri Bartlett, Assistant Editor and Carole Robinson, Senior Staff Writer
Until the U.S. government closed its doors midnight Tuesday, it had been 17-years since the feds closed for business. In late 1995, it lasted 28 days.
Since 1976, the government has shutdown 17 times with national museums, parks and many federal agencies closed.
How is this shutdown affecting residents and governments in Williamson County?
The day isn’t so bright for the Natchez Trace Parkway. About 25-miles of the 444-mile federal parkway runs through the county providing access to historic sites, miles of hiking and horse trails.
As part of the National Parks system, the Natchez Trace Parkway is now partially closed.
According to Parkway Superintendent Dale Wilkerson, the shutdown will not close the road, however all visitor facilities from Natchez, Miss. to Nashville are closed.
“The road will remain open but all facilities, campgrounds, significant sites like the Meriwether Lewis site and visitors centers [are] closed,” Wilkerson said.
Buildings are locked and there are barricades to access areas, parking lots and most trails.
Law enforcement officials will continue to patrol the road and significant areas, “to protect park resources and assist travelers,” and a small number of maintenance workers will be around.
“Once a solution to the stalemate has been found, it will only take about a day to reopen the park,” he said.
Other programs impacted
“The bottom line, we will survive as we have the 17 other times we had a shutdown,” said Gov. Bill Haslam. “Some of our immediate concerns are things that are funded out of human services like the SNAP [food stamp] program and others.”
Also on the radar are the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), WIC and other child nutrition programsm as well as K-12 educational services and small business programs.
“We are really concerned about the small business owners,” Cong. Marsha Blackburn said. “IRS audits are delayed, and EPA checks are delayed and there are delays in small business loans.”
Head Start, a $7.5 million program that provides preschool education for 950 children from low-income families across eight counties in Middle Tennessee, is one of Mid-Cumberland Community Action Agency’s largest federally funded programs.
If the government shutdown lasts a couple of weeks, services could come to a halt.
“In Williamson County, we have 36 preschoolers in classrooms and four home-seen children,” said Kevin Davenport, executive director of MCCAA. “As a nonprofit, we don’t have a lot of funds to fall back on.”
If the government shutdown lasts longer, he added, “we will have to make some difficult decisions as to staffing and what programs we are able to keep open until our elected officials can come to an agreement.”
MCCAA also administers the LIHEAP program. LIHEAP funds are channeled through the state to help low-income families with utility bills and other services.
“We might have to sit down, look at our books and make cuts if the shutdown lasts more than two weeks,” he said.
Schools could be affected long-term
WCS Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney said the shutdown would “wreak havoc in our lives.”
Monday afternoon Looney tweeted, “WCS’ budget includes $9,772,505 in federal funds. If there is a shutdown, schools will remain open for now, thanks to our skilled CFO.”
District programs funded by the federal government could temporarily be kept going using money from the general fund until the federal government could reimburse the school system, he said.
If the shutdown is prolonged, Looney said he might be forced to ask the county commission and school board for more money to fund such programs.
“We have federally funded positions that we would either need to eliminate or secure additional local funds.”
If the shutdown should continue long term, Looney noted, “Our students that qualify for free or reduced lunch would not continue to receive the federal subsidy. Our services for homeless, ELL, and special education are supported with federal funds and these programs would be compromised.”
According to Haslam’s office, Title I grants and funding for special education and career and technical education are “forward-funded.”
They received a portion of their funds on July 1 and were scheduled to receive additional funds on Oct. 1.
Looney said in a worst-case scenario, if the federal government does not reimburse the district, he would be forced to transfer funds out of local accounts as well as ask the county commission and school board for more funds.
IRS shuts down services
The IRS halted non-automated collections, tax processing and taxpayer services such as responding to taxpayer questions, including phone service functions. Appointments for audits, collections, Appeals or Taxpayer Advocate cases are canceled and will be rescheduled at a later date.
FEMA will not be affected by the shutdown, although some non-disaster transactions submitted via the FEMA website may not be processed.
Survivor benefits, pension and disability benefits, veteran’s claims processing, education and vocational rehabilitation will continue through the end of October, processing will be suspended when funds run out.
State highway programs around the county receiving funds through Federal Highway Trust Fund will continue. However, the Federal Transit Administration will not obligate grant funds because FTA staff, who perform those functions are not considered essential.
In Williamson County business continued. “We really don’t interface much with the federal government in our day to day business,” said County Mayor Rogers Anderson.
“Business [in the county] is going just fine, right now,” Anderson said. “We’ve gone through this a couple of times – honestly we just keep going on.”
The City of Franklin won’t be affected unless the shutdown prolongs according to Franklin Assistant Administrator Russ Truell.
Indirect payments that pass from the federal government through the state to local governments for road projects and the Franklin Transit may be interrupted if there’s a long delay Truell said.
There is no direct affect on the Franklin Housing Authority, according to Susan Minor, director of community development.
“As far as funding, other than [HUD], we will not be impacted, initially,” she said.
Posted on: 10/3/2013