East Lansing continues to work through shutdown

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Kate Kerbrat
Entirely East Lansing staff writer

The first government shutdown in 17 years began Oct. 1 when Congress failed to pass a budget for the fiscal year. The shutdown caused all non-essential federal employees to be furloughed until a budget is passed by Congress and signed by the president.

In Michigan, about 30,000 federal employees are currently furloughed, said State Rep. Sam Singh (D-East Lansing). These workers are from across the state, and will be unable to return to work or get paid until the shutdown ends.

“We’re beginning to see that level of the impact,” said Singh. “I will be hoping that the members of Congress would, especially if it goes on for a long significant portion of time, actually make the pay retroactive.”

The East Lansing municipal government will be able to continue running normally throughout the shutdown. City Manager George Lahanas said that the City receives little money from the federal government and therefore will not have to shut down any services.

“I don’t think we’re going to be that negatively impacted, certainly our residents won’t see anything on the local level,” said Lahanas. “It’s not going to make a difference if your rubbish is picked up, if your streets are patrolled by police, fire, ambulance, it’s not going to make a difference for us. The streetlights will still be on, the water and sewage utilities will still be running.”

While other cities may be affected through the shutdown of national parks and federal offices, East Lansing has nothing on the federal level that could be impacted. There is some grant money that goes toward staffing the police and fire departments, Lahanas said, but not enough where any employee would be laid off.

“We’re in the midst of a couple of those grants, but that wouldn’t come into play because it would just be a matter of when we get our money.We get our money now or we get our money two weeks late, it doesn’t really matter to us.”
-George Lahanas

Summer Minnick, the director of Policy Initiatives and Federal Affairs at the Michigan Municipal League, said while it is unlikely East Lansing will see any major repercussions from the federal government shutdown, there may be some impact on local citizens.

“The federal government will not be issuing small-business loans or home loans that a lot of people utilize, so that will have an impact on the economic activity in certain cities, depending on the number of people that were going to be in the process of doing that,” said Minnick.

There are many federal programs that could affect people on an individual level. Welfare programs that receive federal funding will not immediately be burdened by the shutdown, said Singh, but will be if the shutdown lasts over a week.

“There are a number of federal programs that deal with multiple citizens and provide financial and often food resources for those that are in a certain level of poverty,” said Singh. “They have enough resources that they can continue doing part of the work, but the longer the program and government is shut down, the more significant the impact there.”

If the shutdown does last for several weeks, East Lansing should still be running like normal, Lahanas said. He said East Lansing receives a majority of its money from property taxes from residents and some sales taxes from the state.

“If you stop the money, you stop the service, but our money is still available because it comes from the taxpayers of East Lansing,” said Lahanas.

state budget chart

While the municipal government of East Lansing will continue to operate as normal, there may be some issues that the city does not control. Minnick said no one in the government is certain what will happen in there is a prolonged government shutdown. There are some things that she knows will be affected.

“It’ll be transportation, it’ll be housing, it’ll be economic development, those are the things that will start to have bigger problems within the local government realm,” said Minnick. “To be honest, they are finding this out as it goes along, and one of the things that we’ve realized is that each department in the federal government has their own ability to determine how they’re going to implement some of these measures.”

Rep. Singh also said that the he was uncertain what will happen if there is a long-term government shutdown. He said that Michigan will lose roughly $18 million for each day of the shutdown.

“Right now, the state departments are doing an analysis to see where the impact will be,” said Singh. “They’re trying to make sure we’re not impacting people’s lives right away. We can only do that for a short period of time, and the longer that this situation occurs, the more dramatic the impact.”

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