State workers in North Carolina feel effect of federal shutdown

rchristensen@newsobserver.comOctober 1, 2013 

— The federal government shutdown caused the furlough of hundreds of state government workers whose jobs are fully or partially federally funded Tuesday, and state officials said several thousand more jobs could be affected.

The state Department of Health and Human Services told 337 employees not to show up for work Wednesday morning. Officials said as many 4,500 DHHS workers could be furloughed or see their hours reduced.

There was also a smaller furlough in the Department of Transportation, and a small group of workers at the state Labor Department saw their hours slashed in half.

“We have to make sure the functions that are critical remain open,” Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday at a meeting of the Council of State. “But at the same time, we are not spending money that the state does not have that the federal government has responsibility for because this could have an impact on our state budget.”

There are an estimated 6,000 state government workers whose jobs are fully or partially federally funded, North Carolina officials said Tuesday.

Art Pope, the state budget director, said the exact number of state employees affected wouldn’t be known until federal agencies issued guidelines about which jobs were deemed critical.

By far the agency with the most federally funded positions is DHHS.

Aldona Wos, the secretary of health and human services, said the 337 employees furloughed are in positions fully funded by the federal government and will remain off the job until Congress passes a continuing resolution. She said employees whose positions are partially funded by the federal government can remain at work until the full impact of the shutdown can be assessed in the coming days. She said up to 4,500 employees could be furloughed or see their hours reduced.

“Our leadership team continues to gather information about the full impact of the shutdown on our employees, programs and vital services,” Wos said in a statement. “We hope our elected leaders in Washington, D.C., will soon reach an agreement so our employees can return to their jobs and continue serving the people of North Carolina.”

As a result of the shutdown, Wos said DHHS would soon run out of money to carry out some services. She said standard, follow-up inspections of certain licensed health care facilities by federally funded inspectors would cease. She said the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, will shut down this month as remaining funds run out. The program, which is completely funded by the federal government, provides supplemental food, health care and nutritional programs to 264,000 women, infants and young children in North Carolina each month.

Other programs that will begin to run out of funding, according to DHHS: North Carolina’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, called Work First; Adult Protection Services and Guardianship Services; and the Child Care Development Fund.

At the state Department of Transportation, Secretary Tony Tata said 23 federally paid employees were furloughed Tuesday. DOT has 65 full-time positions and six part-time positions that are federally funded – 16 of which are vacant.

“We hope the federal government will resume operations as quickly as possible so all of our employees can get back to work,” Tata said in a statement.

At the state Department of Labor, four employees who work in research, and information and technology, whose positions were funded in part by the federal government, will see their hours cut to 20 hours per week, a department spokesman said.

In a memo to state agencies, Pope and Neal Alexander, the state personnel director, wrote: “Departments shall not spend any state monies on programs which are 100 percent federally funded or increase the state funding percentage in partially federally funded programs.”

But Pope said there are a lot of “gray areas,” such as inspections programs, where it is not clear whether they will be part of the shutdown.

Christensen: 919-829-4532

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