October 1, 2013

Effects of shutdown will vary in Maine

While some federal employees could lose paychecks, many Mainers will notice nothing different.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

FEDERAL COURTS IN SESSION

Christa Berry, clerk of U.S. District Court in Maine, said federal officials notified individual districts that the Judiciary has only enough money to maintain operations through Oct. 13.

“After that, the District of Maine – along with other federal courts – would be required to restrict operations to a bare minimum,” Berry said in a prepared statement.

Because federal courts are “statutorily and constitutionally required to speedily process criminal matters” regardless of funding, Berry said the district would have to explore other ways to save money. That could include restricting the processing of civil actions and limiting the hours of court personnel, especially administrative workers.

WIDESPREAD SBA CLOSURES

Only two programs in the U.S. Small Business Administration are exempt from the shutdown: the disaster loan program and the investigatory responsibilities of the Inspector General. Almost all other offices would close.

Affected programs include guaranteed loans to small businesses, international trade assistance, and programs that support businesses owned by women, veterans and Native Americans.

“Maine is a small business state and loans are extremely important,” said Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “The big question is whether the shutdown lasts a day, a week or longer. There is no question it is going to have an impact.”

MINIMAL IMPACT ON EDUCATION

U.S. Department of Education officials have assured state officials that even if federal staffers are furloughed, the federal dollars will to flow to Maine.

Maine’s Department of Education typically receives federal cash for education on or around July 1 and Oct. 1. Samantha Warren, the department’s spokeswoman, said funding for a few programs has yet to arrive but fed officials have committed to providing it, though perhaps with a delay.

She said, “I think this uncertainty is a reminder to many of us at the state level of why we cannot become too reliant on the feds and must look within for more sustainable streams of funding.”

FOOD STAMPS SAFE; WIC MAY NOT BE

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – food stamps – will continue unabated. The Women, Infants and Children nutrition program can run on carry-over funds, but only until around mid-October.

“We have enough funding to allow the program to operate for 15 days without hardship,” said John Martins, spokesman for the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

The shutdown is not expected to have an immediate impact on housing assistance programs for low-income Mainers – including Section 8 vouchers – or the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

An extended shutdown could affect planning for the home heating program but would affect disbursements to oil dealers only if it stretched well into the fall, said Maine State Housing Authority spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte.

 

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:kmiller@mainetoday.com

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