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Shutdown's effects on city government minimal for now

Thursday, October 3, 2013 | 5:48 p.m. CDT; updated 6:46 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 3, 2013

COLUMBIA — The effects of the federal government shutdown on Columbia's city government have been "at this point fairly minimal,"  Deputy City Manager Tony St. Romaine said Thursday.

"But the longer the shutdown stays in place, the more effects we'll start seeing," he added.

The city does not have a contingency plan in place for dealing with the shutdown, St. Romaine said. "Hopefully the folks in Congress will come to a resolution before then."

St. Romaine mentioned three main aspects of city government affected by the shutdown:

  • Access to information: City employees routinely utilize information on federal websites now rendered inaccessible by the shutdown. Fortunately, in Columbia, "we have a lot of experienced folks who are still able to make decisions," he said.
  • E-verify: The city Human Resources Department uses E-verify, an Internet-based employee eligibility verification system run through the federal government, when hiring. New employees are required to turn in an I-9 form within three days of starting work, Margrace Buckler, director of human resources, said. The city may continue hiring, but processing the I-9 form will be delayed.
  • Technical assistance: City employees rely on some federal programs, such as the Community Development Block Grant Program, for technical assistance. Tim Teddy, director of Community Development, said that his department expected a slowdown on filing some paperwork and that a training had to be postponed. Federal grants to the Community Development Department are not in jeopardy for the current fiscal year, he added.

The shutdown has stalled applications from the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department for federal grants to improve some trails.

Director Mike Griggs said the impact so far has been "secondary," since the parks department has fewer than five applications pending.

Griggs said it's been tough to read the emails he gets from rangers in the National Park Service, who've had to shut down parks.

Depending on the duration of the shutdown and the government's actions on the debt limit, the city may encounter other problems.

"As we get closer to the Oct. 17 deadline for the debt limit, we're very concerned about our ability to pull down funds" from federal grants, St. Romaine said.

What changes have you noticed since the shutdown, or what services are you missing? What do you anticipate happening if the shutdown continues? We'd like to hear about your experience. Email us at submissions@ColumbiaMissourian.com, comment below or call the newsroom at 882-5720 and ask to talk to the editor on duty.

Supervising editor is John Schneller.


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