The Commerce Journal

October 3, 2013

Shutdown has little impact on county

Area could feel long term effects

By Joseph Hamrick, Brad Kellar and Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal

COMMERCE — While the impact of the federal government “shutdown” has been discussed and debated for weeks now, locally the first day of the shutdown had little impact.

The Hunt County office of the Department of Homeland Security will not be affected, at least for a while.

Although the office — which also encompasses the Hunt County Fire Marshal and Division of Emergency Management —  sounds as if it would be a part of the federal agency of the same name, the department’s David Alexander said it is under Hunt County’s jurisdiction, which is in turn reimbursed by a federal emergency management planning grant.

“The county pays us up front, and then the grant pays them back a year later,” Alexander said.

The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Food and Nutrition Service is closed on a national level. The program provides healthy-food vouchers, nutrition education and breastfeeding support to millions of women nationwide. But according to Christine Munn, press officer for the Texas Department of State Health Services, WIC will continue to run with all services despite the government shutdown.

“At this point, there will not be an immediate impact,” she said. “We received word from the governor to provide essential services.”

But she said if the shutdown continues there could be an impact on services provided in a few weeks.

“We have people who are analyzing the impact,” she said, adding that the agency still has adequate funds to keep the offices open,

Mann added that the agency had already received much of its funds from the federal government before it shut down.

The Hunt County WIC office was closed on Tuesday for a full staff meeting, but reopened Wednesday under normal business hours.

Calls to the Rockwall WIC office were not returned by press time.

U.S. Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX) voted for the amendment to the 2014 fiscal year appropriations bill that was ultimately rejected by the U.S. Senate on Monday, shutting down some aspects of the federal government, including national parks and museums.

“... by allowing Congress time to pass a long-term budget that reins in spending and respects taxpayer dollars, we can promote economic growth and encourage job creation,” he said in a press release.

Hall and other House Republicans have fought to include in the appropriations bill legislation that would postpone the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate by a year.

The ACA requires individuals to purchase health insurance by March 31, 2014 or pay either a fee of $95 the first year or 1 percent of their annual income, whichever is higher.

That total will increase to 2.5 percent by 2016.

“‘Obamacare’ was forced through Congress without a single Republican vote in either the House or Senate, and many Americans are disillusioned with this bad health care law that is threatening their job and health security,” he said. “By delaying ‘Obamacare’s’ individual mandate, which I believe to be unconstitutional, we offer the same fairness President Obama chose to give to employers but neglected to offer families.”

Hall also supports a provision that would require the president, vice president and ‘political employees’ to purchase health care through the Affordable Care Act exchanges and place limits on subsidies they receive.

The Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, went into effect on Monday in a rollout that is expected to take months.