Dylan Lightfoot Staff Writer
October 1, 2013
At midnight, the federal government came to a screeching halt as Congress reached an impasse over the Affordable Care Act, but federally-funded programs administered Ashe County may not feel immediate effects of the shutdown.
“At this point, we don’t know,” said Department of Social Services Director Donna Weaver today when asked how the shutdown would affect Ashe Countians.
For now, Social Security, SNAP and other federal benefits administered by Ashe County DSS will continue as usual, Weaver said. “Office hours won’t be changing, we won’t be modifying anything.”
But a lengthy shutdown could see counties on the hook for administrative costs for federal programs. According to a statement issued today by the N.C. Department of State Treasury, “Should a local government continue to administer a program impacted by the shutdown, that unit may be assuming financial responsibility for costs incurred during the shutdown period.”
“If it decides to take that responsibility on, they must be certain that adequate funds are on hand to pay costs incurred should the unit not subsequently be reimbursed for federal funds,” the statement read.
“That could be very costly,” Weaver said.
“Most of our programs have federal funding. If the shutdown went on for very long, it could cause a reimbursement delay,” she said.
Counties administering federal programs are reimbursed monthly, she said.
“There are some programs like foster care reimbursement that don’t have federal funding, but each pot of money has its own rules and restrictions,” she said.
Ashe County Board of Commissioners Chair Larry Rhodes today said, “This is something we definitely need to look into.”
“Someone will have to explain which programs are affected, how they are affected…we may have to look at which ones to curtail,” Rhodes said.
Parkway open, facilities closed
The Blue Ridge Parkway “remains open to traffic despite a government shutdown of federal agencies,” according to a press release from the Blue Ridge Parkway Association.
Parkway facilities and services, including all visitor centers, lodging, camping, interpretive services and restrooms along Parkway and other national park areas will remain closed during the shutdown.
Visitors may continue to access travel services including lodging & camping, dining, gas, attractions and outdoor activities from the dozens of communities in proximity to the Parkway and plan their fall vacations using information on www.blueridgeparkway.org.
“It’s not going to have much of an effect,” said Paul Caudill of the Ashe County Veterans Services office.
“Hospital functions are not going to be impacted but appeals (of claims) will be impacted,” he said.
A statement released Monday by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that some veterans services will not be affected by a potential lapse in appropriations, while others will.
All VA medical facilities and clinics will remain fully operational, including inpatient and outpatient care, prescriptions, surgeries, mental health and nursing home care, and Vet Centers.
Veterans Affairs call centers and hotlines will cease to function, including the VBA Educational Call Center and Inspector General Hotline.
“Claims processing and payments in the compensation, pension, educational and vocational rehabilitation programs are anticipated to continue through late October. However, in the event of a prolonged shutdown, claims processing an payments in these programs would be suspended when available funding is exhausted,” according to the VA.