Source: Peter Wong / Statesman Journal
Millions of dollars for Oregon programs could be affected by a partial shutdown of the federal government if Congress fails by Monday to resolve a deadlock over funding.
Although state programs such as Medicaid would be shielded, welfare and food stamps for low-income families could be affected, depending on the length of a shutdown.
“It’s all about cash flow,” Brian DeForest, the state’s deputy chief financial officer, said Friday. “We can endure a shutdown of about 30 days.”
Potential effects of a federal shutdown were being assessed by officials from the Department of Administrative Services — which oversees budget and management for the governor — the Oregon State Treasury, Department of Human Services and Oregon Health Authority.
The human services agency oversees welfare and food stamps, which depend on annual amounts from Congress. The federal transfers to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as they are known officially, are not made daily.
The health agency oversees Medicaid, the joint federal and state program of health insurance for low-income people, most of whom obtain care under the Oregon Health Plan. Medicaid also pays nursing home costs for some older low-income people who have drawn down their assets. Like Social Security and Medicare, Medicaid is considered an entitlement program and is shielded from the shutdown.
In a memo Thursday, Michael Jordan, the state’s chief operating officer, asked agencies to submit information about cash flows for federally funded programs and whether they would be affected by a shutdown of less than two weeks.
Jordan said he would meet with Gov. John Kitzhaber and others if there is a need to plan for a “prolonged” shutdown.
DeForest said officials from key agencies will meet again Monday, the deadline for Congress to act. He said he hoped state action would not be necessary.
“We have three days of severe weather coming our way and a special (legislative) session starting Monday,” he said. “The last thing we need is a federal shutdown.”
Federal workers in Oregon
It’s uncertain how many of the 28,000 federal workers in Oregon would be affected by a partial shutdown of government operations.
The Oregon Employment Department listed 27,700 federal workers, excluding military, in its August report. Oregon’s total workforce was 1,670,700; state and local government workers numbered 257,400.
According to an April 2012 analysis by the agency’s Oregon Labor Market Information System, based on 2010 data, about half of Oregon’s federal workforce is in the Portland metropolitan area. The five counties in the Willamette Valley, including Marion and Polk, had about 5,000 federal workers.
A shutdown would affect agencies that draw money from annual appropriations from Congress. So it would not affect agencies such as the Postal Service or the Social Security Administration.
Also, President Barack Obama has wide discretion to classify which workers are deemed essential, and who would not be furloughed if there is a partial shutdown. Agencies may have some workers classified as essential and others who are not.
Some union officials estimate that a shutdown could affect about 40 percent of the 2 million civilian workers nationwide.
A shutdown also could affect contractors with the federal government.
In proportion to population, the Willamette Valley had Oregon’s lowest ratio of federal workers at 4.9 jobs per 1,000 people. The statewide ratio in 2010 was 7.4 federal jobs per 1,000 people, which placed Oregon 31st among the states and Washington, D.C. Oregon’s five other regions had higher ratios, up to 13 federal jobs per 1,000 people in Eastern Oregon.
The average federal job in Oregon paid $64,130 in 2010; the average for all Oregon jobs, $41,669.
— Peter Wong