State agencies are scrambling to plan their futures in the face of a government shutdown. Governor Mike Beebe and the heads of various state agencies met with members of the media Monday afternoon to discuss foreseeable ramifications in Arkansas. KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman reports.
The Governor’s message for the state was clear: employees will be furloughed, services will be diminished, and the state can’t meet the costs of operations without federal funds. For now the particulars are still taking shape but for many the precarious state of their employment is already known.
Beebe said in the short-term 600 to 6,000 employees are at risk of furlough, with the prediction growing to 18,000 in the event of a prolonged shutdown. Beebe said many of those cuts go to programs helping the most vulnerable because their budgets are more dependent on federal dollars.
“86,000 meals for children this week that would be effected by the shutdown,” said Beebe.
He said the impact to some agencies, like the Department of Health, will be “catastrophic” although Beebe made it clear the state is unable to make up for diminished funds he provided some insights into how he may act.
“Let me give an example, why not, I might as well say it what are they going to do to me? When we had that ice storm, y’all remember, that was so bad. There was a huge industrial generator; in fact I think there were two of them on trucks that were just sitting. Yet we had hospitals and all sorts of folks didn’t have any power. I got the word that it was going to take a day or two to get federal permission. I said cut the chains hook them up and I’ll apologize to the federal government later,” said Beebe.
Beebe connected the dots between his ice storm example and how he might deal with critical problems to state services, “We don’t know what they’re going to do in an audit 6 months from now or a year from now. But we know this, doing what we need to do to maximize protection of our kids for example in children and family services will require some unorthodox and unusual things.”
State officials still don’t have all the answers they need from federal officials in order to plan for all possible contingencies but Beebe is ready to tell Arkansas’s congressional delegation how he feels.
“I think it’s inexcusable, absolutely inexcusable.”