City, county and state agencies, and some federal agencies in Kittitas County that hadn’t already closed, were scrambling to assess the effects of the federal government shutdown Tuesday.
Local U.S. Department of Agriculture offices are closed, including the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection Quarantine, the Agricultural Service Center, Kittitas County Conservation District offices and Natural Resources Conservation Service offices.
The conservation district is not a federal agency, however, and employees working from home are still providing services.
All U.S. Forest Service offices, including the Cle Elum Ranger District office, also are closed. Almost all Forest Service operations, save those related to firefighting or law enforcement on national forest lands, will suspend during the shutdown, and all personnel not involved in those jobs are furloughed.
The Bonneville Power Administration and U.S. Postal Service will operate normally through the shutdown.
Public health and the city
Kasey Knutson, a health educator at Kittitas County Public Health, said the department operates with some pockets of federal money, but most of it gets filtered through the state first.
Officials at public health and other offices will be unable to access some government data, as many federally operated databases have gone offline.
Public Health has an intern doing a fellowship through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who could face a furlough, but beyond that Knutson said it wasn’t clear what programs, if any, would be affected.
As for Ellensburg, City Manager Ted Barkley said the shutdown probably won’t affect the city, at least not in the short term.
“In the long term, though, it could have a significant effect because we do have federal funds that come to us through transportation grants and other resources,” he said.
HopeSource, he said, has not yet received the full grant to operate Central Transit, and it’s not clear if or how that could affect the local bus service.
Several Americorps volunteers working for the city also are partially funded by the federal government.
Any effects of the shutdown likely wouldn’t become apparent until the end of the month, he said.
“We don’t know enough to be real concerned at this point,” Barkley said. “We’re still reading about who’s functioning and who’s not.”
In a news release, Central Washington University said plans for quick processing of federal financial aid paperwork ahead of time should protect students from the shutdown’s most extreme effects.
To prepare for the shutdown, CWU requested reimbursements for federal grants that had already incurred costs, but it only will be able to reimburse money that’s actually been spent.
In the release, Associate Vice President for Business and Financial Affairs Connie Williamson said the school has received payment for 83 percent of what has and will be spent in the next few weeks. The school will cover the remaining 17 percent until Congress agrees on a budget, she said.
CWU has received about $13.7 million in federal loans and $70,000 for the Supplemental Education Opportunity grant. As of Monday, about $5 million in loan packages had been offered to, but not accepted by, CWU students.
If students accept aid within the next week, CWU may have to cover the costs of those payments until a budget deal is reached.
Of CWU’s total $5.5 million in Pell grant funding, $4 million has been allocated and paid for. CWU also will pick up the difference for Pell grant recipients affected by the shutdown.
Work required to process grants and unsubsidized or subsidized student loans will continue as normal, according to contingency planning information from the U.S. Office of Management and Budget for the Department of Education.
“The bottom line is that students, who were awarded and have accepted federal financial grants and loans by Sept. 30, should not be affected by the federal government shut down,” Williams said in the release.
Research and non-research work paid for by federal money may be affected because reimbursement requests for grants and other contracts usually aren’t processed until after Sept 30. Funding processing may be suspended.
The DOE’s contingency plan furloughs 90 percent of its employees and would maintain limited duties related to presidential appointees, protection of life and property, and student aid and finances.
The release said a shutdown lasting more than one week could affect how student loan and grant payments are processed, and may slow them down.